What Do Dental Patients Really Care About?

Last Updated on October 25, 2023 by Anna Baumann

What do Dental Patients Really Care About?

We all work hard to come up with ideas for getting new patients to join our practice. And just as hard to get our current patients to stay put. It’s a challenge because keeping everyone happy is impossible! (But ticking them off is a breeze!) Insurance changes, and people moving out of the area are out of our control. But aside from those things, what do dental patients really care about?  Based on the complaints and compliments I’ve heard throughout my career, I believe that they care about the little things. 

Here are some great ideas for how to use “the little things” to make your dental office stand out.

Free stuff

People (especially Dental patients) LOVE free stuff! We all have the standard “goody-bags” with a toothbrush and floss. But add just a few little extras, and they go bananas!

A coffee bar

Get a great big Keurig and offer coffee, tea, cider and hot chocolate. If you want to get extra fancy, add flavored creamers and syrups for the coffee. Sturdy to-go cups with lids and warming sleeves are a great marketing tool. Put your office logo and contact information on either the cups or on the sleeves. Patients will love the whole setup, and they’ll leave as a walking advertisement for your office. Also, throw in a small refrigerator with tiny water bottles. Kids love to grab them after appointments when their teeth are sticky with fluoride varnish. 

Lip Balm

They don’t have to be fancy. Just the tiny ones in a couple different flavors do the trick!


What is with patients and pens? I didn’t even think people wrote stuff down anymore, but they go crazy for free pens! Have them made with your office logo and contact information. Make sure to get ones that include a stylus!

Hand Sanitizer

Just those tiny purse bottles are perfect! If you want to get extra fancy, get the ones with the little leash that attaches to a purse or belt loop. You can also personalize them with your office information.

Those are just a few ideas for fun free stuff. Google, “patient giveaways” and find what suits your office. Patients will actually look forward to coming in, and they’ll tell their friends!

Dental office smell

Does your office smell like a dental office? If it does, you need to fix that. Pain isn’t the only reason that patients have anxiety over coming to see us. So much of it is what they see, hear, and smell. When they first walk in your door, they should be hit with a pleasant scent—something warm and welcoming to cover the smell of tooth dust, eugenol, and methyl methacrylate.

Get some electric or pluggable wax warmers or essential oil diffusers. Have you heard of the AirMoji? It’s a bit fancy but it’s easy to use, safer than wax, and has an amazing scent throw! If your office is big enough, get multiple devices and put them in different areas. 

I once worked in an office that had a cookie oven. The scent of something baking is very soothing so it’s a brilliant idea! Patients always mentioned how great it smelled in there, so I know it’s something they cared about. Plus it was a nice (FREE) snack for after their appointment. (If you do give away food, be sure to have the ingredients on display for people with allergies.)

Stay on schedule

This seems so obvious but so many offices just don’t get it. People hate waiting. They hate waiting to board an airplane for a fun trip that they’re looking forward to. So of course they hate waiting to get in to see us! 

  • Schedule enough time for your procedures.
  • Evaluate last-minute emergencies; don’t treat them.
  • If you really can’t help it and you do make them wait, go overboard with an apology. A $10 or $15 gift card to a local bookstore, coffee shop, or ice cream store is always a nice gesture.

Fix whatever you have to fix, so that you get your patients in and out on time. It is very important to them. (And, it’s less stressful for your team.)


You’d think if you don’t keep people waiting that they wouldn’t care about magazines. But they care so much that they actually arrive early for their appointments so they can “catch up on their reading”. 

I once temped in an office that had no magazines and no TV in their reception area. Just informational pamphlets and ugly paintings on the walls. Coincidentally, it also had grumpy patients and mean employees.

That doctor thought that little things made no difference. But they made a big one because they are what transform your waiting room into a reception room. They set your office apart, and show patients that you appreciate them and care about their comfort.

So don’t dismiss the little things. They really are a big part of what makes your office stand out. Especially if you’re in an area where there’s a lot of competition close by. Those little things are what people will remember most when a friend or neighbor asks them to recommend a dentist in the area.

“To keep a customer demands as much skill as to win one.” – American Proverb

Similar Posts


  1. I agree Anna. My personal opinion is the #1 most important thing to patients is “feeling heard”. They want to feel like they were the most important thing at that given appointment and that enough time was allowed to address all their concerns. It’s how they feel walking out the door. Validate the patients concerns, take the time with them that they need and you will have a friend for life.

    1. Yep! We can have all the fancy technology in the world. But those little things that show that we’re listening and that we care about them, are what keeps them coming back. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Kris!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *