Using online testimonials to promote your dental practice

Many dentists do not realize the tremendous power of online testimonials in bringing in new patients. Yet according to poll data, a whopping 92% of prospective patients claim to read them, and 67% admit to being influenced by them. Here is what you should know about using online testimonials to promote your dental practice.

Benefits of Online Testimonials

Google Visibility: The Google algorithm is built to showcase the most authoritative and relevant websites in Google search. Online testimonials, particularly on multiple sites, assure Google that yours is a legitimate practice with high social proof.

Promotion: Research shows that patients tend to stay longer on websites they trust, especially if there are videos to watch. They are also more likely to actually visit the practice whose website caught their attention. Ask your satisfied patients to record a video testimonial, and you have the seeds of a tremendous promotional campaign.

Trust: Patient testimonials are a powerful way to build trust with both your current patients and your prospects. In fact, your current patients may be more likely to recommend you to their friends and family members when they see that their positive impressions of you are shared by others.

Reputation and Brand Awareness: Every time someone sees your practice reflected in a positive light, it makes an impression. The more testimonials you have, the more power you have to build your reputation and, ultimately your brand. This translates into more patients, more repeat visits, and more positive word of mouth throughout your community.

Insight: You can glean a great deal of information from what your patients say, and don’t say, in their testimonials. Use this opportunity to learn, and you will improve your overall patient experience.

Types of Online Testimonials

Savvy dentists will incorporate all three basic types of testimonials into their online marketing.

Written with a Single Photo: This is still the most common type of testimonial. An eye-catching photo of the patient is used, along with a few sentences about his or her experience.

Before and After Photos: Many patients are reluctant to share their “before” photos with the world, but if you have a few who are willing, these testimonials can be extremely powerful. A written account of the patient’s process accompanies two or more photos documenting the journey.

Videos: A video testimonial should be no longer than one minute, and it must be tightly edited. People enjoy watching their peers talk about their experiences, so don’t be shy in asking for volunteers. Choose patients who are articulate, present well on camera, and are not prone to rambling.

Building a Great Testimonial

Although a testimonial must be presented in the patient’s own words, many patients do not know how to go about describing their experiences. Asking open-ended questions helps the patient frame his journey and build an authentic, but well-presented, narrative. Here are a few possible questions:

  • What, if anything, nearly prevented you from choosing this practice?
  • What made you decide to choose us?
  • What was your favorite part of your experience at our office?
  • What are the top three benefits that our office provides?
  • Briefly describe your journey with our practice from your first appointment through your most recent visit.
  • Would you recommend us to your friends and family and, if so, why?
  • Is there anything you wish someone had told you about our practice before you started treatment here?

These questions will not only help your patients articulate their experiences, but they also provide insights into what your patients value most. In turn, you can focus your marketing efforts on the things that are most important to the highest number of patients, drawing in prospects who value those same features.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Grow your practice with a targeted referral strategy

We all want more clients. If you want your practice to grow one of the best metrics you can use to track success and predict future growth is how many new patients come through your door each month vs those you lose.

There are many strategies you can use to keep your funnel full, including advertising and sponsorships that will help increase your brand recognition. However one of the most significant things we can do in the healthcare industry to improve our businesses is increase referrals from existing clients.

I recently spoke to Stacey Brown Randall from Growth by Referrals about how a properly implemented referral strategy can help dentists get more of the patients “they want” to choose their practice.

“First you need to be willing to touch business development everyday,” says Randall.

“When I started paying attention to how we are taught to do referrals – which is to ask – it really sounded like a cold call to me.”

For Randall “the ask” was a significant barrier. So she developed a system whereby you identify who the clients you already have that you would like to have more of and turn those existing patients into advocates for your business by going beyond once or twice a year contacts and actually offering the type of client experience that keeps you top of mind.

“We typically refer people who are like us,” says Randall. “However only 20% to 30% of clients refer on a consistent basis. So you need to have the right client experience and referral strategy in place so that when opportunities for referral occur people are saying ‘you have got to go see my dentist’.”

This is a great point as it does not simply mean that you are increasing the number of referrals – but also the quality of those who are referred.

If dentists do their tracking properly there is always a referral source. Whether it’s a personal referral, or a referral from an insurance company or even another healthcare professional.

“A lot of referrals should be coming from other practitioners,” says Randall. “So dentists and other healthcare professionals should be cultivating those relationships.”

If you would like to learn more about Stacey you can visit her site

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

The right way to handle chronically late dental patients

In addition to my dental consulting business, I’m also a practicing full time dentist. So I deal with the same issues that my consulting clients deal with day in and day out. I can tell you that one of the biggest pet peeves of dentists (and lawyers and anyone else who takes appointments) is the chronically late client.

My expertise is helping dentists implement the proper processes and procedures to help them through all the different phases of their career.

Although I consider myself an expert, I’m also human and I still make mistakes. The trick is to identify the mistakes and take steps to ensure they don’t become career killing habits.

How you treat chronically late patients can have a serious impact on your dental practice. Before I go further, let me explain what I mean about chronically late. This is an individual who is 15 or 20 minutes late, between 50 and 75 percent of the time.
We all have them.

Here’s how we mishandled a recent situation and what it cost us. Firstly, this is an individual who is known (and expected to) be late for most appointments. As usual they began with an apology, followed by an excuse. They knew they were late, but it was traffic.

Our front desk coordinator was in no mood to hear it. She said “you’re almost 20 minutes late and something like this cannot continue to happen.”

With that the individual turned around and walked right out of the office. Less than 45 minutes later, I received an email saying how dissatisfied this patient was with our organization. He went on to say how unhappy he was about the way he was treated and how he had tried his best to be on time for his appointment.

The result of that particular process and procedure around dealing with late patients was that we lost that individual as a patient – who’d been with our practice for over ten years – as well as his wife and their three children.

Office processes and procedures have a dramatic effect on your day-to-day bottom line as well as your reputation and referrability. At this point, I haven’t seen a social media post or Google review from our former patient, but I’m sure it’s coming.

So how could we have handled this situation better? The correct way would be to get the patient seated and comfortable. The next step would be to explain that their appointment was at such and such a time and because they were late, we would do our very best to coordinate and complete their care.

In this particular case, it was a simple hygiene appointment. Most dental practices these days will have dental assistants, dental hygienists, doctors and associates to handle a hygiene appointments, regardless of how late that patient is.

The point I would try to make in this example is that scolding a patient for being late as they walk in the door should never happen. Save the “education” portion of the visit until after the appointment is completed.

If this was handled correctly, I think the average person would accept that because they were late it might take a little extra time to get their procedure under way. The result of not handling it properly was a financial hit to our company and to our reputation. And I’m sure if it’s happening to me, it’s happening to others.

So when, not if, you have to have a conversation with a chronically late patient, wait until after the set procedure and then have your treatment plan coordinator simply say to Mr. or Mrs. Smith, “is there a time that is better for you so that you won’t be late? Is there a way that we can coordinate the appointment so it is easier for you and there’s less stress on you?”

Proper and clear communication is the best way to reinforce expectations and remind patients that arriving on time is their job.

Your patients need your skills. But they want your care

Being a successful dentist comes down to one thing.


After 35 years of practicing dentistry and growing my business to include 14 dental offices with 160 employees, the single most important skill I’ve developed is the ability to communicate with team members and patients.

Think I’m kidding? Overstating things a bit?

Let’s assume that all dentists have the basic skills to perform the procedures described on their websites. So what is the factor that differentiates one dentist from another? I’ll tell you right now that it’s a dentist’s ability to communicate with his or her patients that will propel the business forward through retention and referrals or hold it back as patients move on to a dentist they like and trust more.  

People are not sheep. The person sitting in your chair now is not the same as the person who was occupying that same spot an hour ago. Every patient is different and you need to be able to adapt your communication skills to reach each and every one of them so they feel valued. How well you to communicate is a crucial part of doing your job and will help you keep your dental patients coming back year after year.

A communications expert I worked with once, Mr. David Wolf told me that he observed that many dentists come from a more ‘scientific’ background, which is factually true. He also discovered that we tend to be introverts for the most part.

He was right. As a group, we tend to focus on technology and rely on our clinical skills to deliver the best care possible to our patients.

But that isn’t what keeps patients coming back. How we talk to and deal with them is key to patient retention.

You probably already have well trained front office team that determines the customer experience right up until they sit in your chair. But from their it’s all you. How you communicate from that point on will determine if that patient will become a regular contributor to your bottom line results.

Patients want to know you care. They already assume that you know how to do the A, B and C procedures competently or they wouldn’t let you near their mouths in the first place. What they really want is for you to connect with them emotionally about the work they’ve requested or you’re recommending.

You already have a sales team: your staff!

Look around your practice. What is the biggest investment you’ve made? You’ve got modern technology: that ensures that customers return, knowing that they’re getting the best care. That is a good investment.

But consider your most important investment: your team. You upgrade your technology, certainly. But are you doing the same with your team?

Here’s something I can offer from my years of experience with multiple practices and teams. If you don’t have a successful team, you don’t have a successful business or practice.

Intuitively, all dentists understand that they’re the leaders of their organization. But unfortunately, most of us are not trained in leadership, management, and many times, we just don’t know how to coach our team members.

Individual team members share a goal and are there to support your patient base, your business, and improve the quality of care and service for patients.

Here’s quick overview of how to make your team stronger…

They need to be trained in basic dental procedures, whether that’s periodontics, endodontics, oral maxillofacial surgery, implant dentistry, temporomandibular joint or temporomandibular disorders, cosmetic procedures, sedation options, pediatrics, dental radiology, public health: the list is really extraordinary.

It’s about education, yes, but also about value to the customer. If your team knows the value of these procedures, they can educate patients about them when they ask about them. They become part of your marketing and sales department. That’s value to your practice.

I think there isn’t a dentist or a dental personnel out there that doesn’t realize that some individuals are just innately better at sales. In general, the medical and dental profession generally frown upon the word sales. Sales sounds unprofessional. We’re above the fray: we shouldn’t be selling anything. We provide care and treatment.

In the world that I live in, sales are a positive thing. When you can educate, inform and motivate patients in a certain direction for a specific treatment, providing that treatment is the correct treatment and best for your patient, then sales are critically important because they motivate your patient to do what you think is best for them.

In short, your team can boost your practice’s success rate and how patients accept  the treatment plans.

So how’s your (sales) team? Have you given them the training and motivation you need?

You upgrade your technology so upgrade your team now and often. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make in your practice.

Dental implants growth tied to technology advancements

Although pioneering techniques have always been a part of dentistry, I must admit it’s been fascinating to watch how one in particular has evolved throughout my career.

I’m talking about dental implants. When I did my first implant back in 1983, it took three hours to get a single tooth in place. Back then the process included drilling into the bone to test for bone quality and quantity. The theory was that good bone density meant a good prognosis for a successful implant.

Since then I’ve done thousands of implants and the process has developed quite a bit.

Today, using cone beam technology we can plan the surgery in great detail. The cone beam allows us to check for quality and quantity of bone, height and width of bone without any invasive drilling.

Putting the technological advances in the procedure aside, it’s hard to overestimate how important an advance like implants are to the quality of life of patients. Even a patient with no teeth can have them all replaced.

It used to be a very time consuming and expensive process for a fully edentulous patient. Prior to cone beam technology, patients would wait weeks for treatment prep and planning to be completed. The prep has been since dramatically compressed over the years, resulting in a quicker and much less expensive procedure.

There are some companies such as Implant Concierge that are rather handy for dentists in that they handle all the post cone-beam scan work and create a plan for the dentist to work from. These are online processes that eliminate office work in terms of merging, segmenting and thresholding for the procedure.

What I like about such companies is how they allow dentists to integrate implant work easily into their practice without  stand-alone software, and the learning curve that it involved for everyone in the practice.

Outsourcing this type of work is a good strategy to increase your service offerings without impacting your current business. And because it expands the scope of your practice, it is good for client retention, referrals and your bottom line.  

So if you feel your practice is not growing as fast as it should, consider all the options.

Dentistry plays key role in sleep medicine

Feeling a little sleepy today? That’s okay, maybe you had a rough night. Not a big deal.

But what if you’re feeling sleepy a lot? Days or weeks at a time? You may be becoming dangerous.

Put another way, you may have a sleep disorder, putting you among the tens of millions who suffer with one. The dangerous part? It seems 20 percent of all motor vehicle accidents are associated with untreated sleep disorders. Do you remember the Challenger accident and the Three Mile Island danger? Both are connected with sleep disorder issues.

How does this relate to dentistry? First of all, the American Association of Sleep Medicine is considered the governing body. It provides the guidelines and the standard of care for dentists and physicians to follow in order to provide the public with the highest level of education and treatment options related to chronic, severe problems of sleep deprivation.

Most people consider going to a dentist for snoring only when their partner becomes disturbed and irritated. It’s a situation that is both uncomfortable and embarrassing for both parties.

So what can a dentist do to turn this problem into a profit center? Here are the proper process and procedures to provide excellent care in sleep medicine. Follow them and you will be able to increase your profitability by expanding your practices service offerings.

  • Get certified! Patients seek out dentists who have either a certification, designation or a minimum of 25 hours of training in the appropriate sleep medicine courses.
  • Learn to make the referral! A proper diagnosis requires the patient to get a polysomnogram (PSG), a level one sleep study done in a hospital setting where the individual stays overnight. Their eye movement, muscle movement and cardiac evaluation is constantly monitored along with their blood pressure, their inspiration, and expiration. A combination of all these factors will determine whether the correct diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea is present or not.

Now for the solution. Most think a CPAP unit is the logical solution. You put on a mask when you sleep and it solves the problem, right? Well, maybe. As many as 80 to 85 percent of people are unable to tolerate the CPAP. Users can find it constricture, claustrophobic and ironically, find it difficult to sleep with it on. It’s also a bit pricey at about $2,000.

A good alternative is a Intraoral or Mandibular Advancement Device.These devices keep the lower jaw in place and stops snoring just as well as a CPAP machine.

Over 90 percent of all sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea is caused by occlusion of the oral cavity or back of the throat by the tongue. By bringing the lower jaw or mandible forward, the tongue is advanced forward and the airway is open.

We’ve been providing intraoral appliances for sleep disorders for many years now and it is amazing to me how much better patients say they feel. Whether is be a intraoral appliance or a CPAP unit, your practice can benefit greatly simply by offering the service.

So are your patients sleeping well? Are they snoring? Maybe these are two questions you should be asking at every checkup from now on.

Formula for a great dental practice: S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

I have one word to help you build a great practice.

It’s special. Well actually, it’s S-P-E-C-I-A-L, bold letters and period too.

It’s no ordinary special. It’s a special special.

Confused? Sure you are. Let me explain.

The letter S stands for scheduling.

Having firm control of your schedule is essential to delivering great service. The single biggest mistake I see in many practices - including the 14 I own - are issues about either being scheduled too lightly or too heavily.

The second letter is P for Production.

It’s about understanding net production and what you’re writing off with insurance companies, government plans and such. In the end, it’s critical to have a profitable end-of-day and end-of-month bottom line.

E is for Education. Training, education and communication should never end. It starts with a morning meeting, continues with a pickup in the afternoon and the day should end with a meeting. This ongoing training and education should be built on proven successful processes and procedures.

C is about Collection. If the dollars are not collected for procedures done, your practice will fail. You have to ensure you have enough profit to expand and improve your staff and business. Collection is the gasoline for the engine, and you must understand that the goal is to collect 100 percent of what’s owed to you.

I stands for Insurance. You, your team, your managed service organization and especially your front desk personnel must clearly understand the differences between insurance plans because different plans have different reimbursements.

A stands for Accounts Receivable. I use the rule of 45 days meaning that if your net production is,45 days, your accounts receivable should ensure payments are made within 45 days.

So if your net production is $100,000 a month, then your accounts receivable should be approximately $150,000. If the accounts receivable are in excess of that, your policies and procedures are not working or they’re not being implemented.

Lastly, L stands for Liability. My personal opinion is there is no better way to reduce your liability than having written treatment plans that are signed and agreed to by your patients. Failure to get signed treatment plans that clearly state risks, benefits, options, and costs is a mistake that will cost you time, money, stress and aggravation.

So that is S-P-E-C-I-A-L. I can assure you it will be special to you if you follow each letter, day after day.

If you want to learn how to be special and more, don’t hesitate to contact me at or at

Investing in dental tech good for patients and your team

We’ve all seen the articles in dentistry trade magazines and skimmed the ads targeted specifically at dentists with some money to spend. Shiny, exciting new technologies that promise of increased productivity and higher profitability. What’s not to like? Sign me up!

But let’s take a step back and ask the fundamental question - is it really worth it to invest in new technology when what you have already does an adequate job?

Well there are two answers and the both start with an emphatic “yes.” The first yes, is that any investment in new technology is great for both patients and your team members. When it comes to choosing and referring your dental practice to others having a reputation as  a dynamic organization is on the cutting edge with new strategies and tools instills confidence and pride in your customers/patients.

Now what about the tech itself?

Let’s not beat around the bush. Some of the technology that is out there would have been science fiction just a few decades ago. In a recent podcast with Kevin McGonigal we discussed a software-driven product that creates a 3D image of dental procedures. For example you can show a patient the exact method you are going to use to execute a dental implant.

This kind of technology also engages and excites your team as they learn more about these procedures, giving them on-site training. And let’s not forget that a practice that’s tech heavy is an enticement to potential employees. After all, who wouldn't love to work in a practice that looks forward on a constant basis?

In general employees who know what they are talking about and patients who understand procedures increases  the education component for patients and in doing so, speeds up the process of getting a procedure done. For those sitting on the fence about getting a procedure, the 3D can help push the decision from a maybe to yes and that will have a definite impact on your bottom line.

There really is no downside to investing in good, useful new technology. Because if you’re not, your competitor up the street will and that will leave your practice looking a little dusty and unattractive to new patients.

Setting up a good dental practice same as setting up a good business

“So how do I set up a good dental practice?”

When I meet colleagues or new dentists, it’s the first real question that gets put to me, after the hellos and “that’s-a-nice-shirt-you’re-wearing” chit chat.

It’s a great question. But sometimes the answer I give isn’t exactly what they expect.

The answer, or at least my version of it, is that setting up a good dental practice is exactly like setting up a good business.

My colleague Steve Parker is responsible for that observation and he’s absolutely correct.

So how do you set up a good business that just happens to be a dental practice?

It comes down to focusing on five areas:

  • Leadership
  • TeamBuilding
  • Money (finance)
  • Metrics (measurement for the business and systems)  

Whether you be setting up a sole practitioner office or one in a DSO or MSO, the principles are the same. A DSO will provide the measurement systems and some of the team building tools.  But in the end it’s up to you to provide inspired and inspiring leadership.

But here’s the rub. Most dental school graduates emerge from the hallowed halls of their academe wielding a dental drill like a champion but with a limited business acumen that borders on financial illiteracy.

It may explain why some find the allure of DSOs and MSOs enticing. Much of the marketing and business growth is left to the corporate head offices.

But let’s go back to those factors again, one by one…

Leadership: It’s about the buck stopping with you. It’s about standing behind your team members so they know you have their back. Remember, how you behave sets the tone and atmosphere of your entire practice.

Team Building: Your team can build you up if you build them up. Get them to understand that training is a lifelong pursuit. If one of them learns something in any given day, ask them to share it with the others. Encourage sharing of lessons learned and how they were learned them. In essence, you are their coach, showing them how to do the work, push them when needed and cheer them when they do a superb job.

Money (finance): This one is important if only to ensure a smooth flow of finances to keep the doors open.

Metrics (measurement for the business and systems): This is about where you steer your Good Ship Dental and why you’re doing it. If you decide to focus on getting new children patients, then that is where you’ll point your metrics and determine your success.

Is it really that easy? Well yes and no. Within each of the four areas noted above there are multiple areas for discussion and exploration.

But those four factors are the foundation of setting up a good Dental / Business practice.

If you want more direction on setting up a new dental practice, please give me a call.