Easy ways to encourage families into your practice

families into your practiceCarina Shaw looks at how to recruit families into your practice and promote good oral health to children to ensure they have happy teeth and gums.

You know how important it is to see children at your practice from an early age. As dental professions we have a responsibility to help get children off to a good start by teaching them to look after their oral health. But attracting families into your practice also makes great business sense as it allows you to engage with multiple patients at the same time – parents, grandparents, extended family and carers.

Interestingly, Denplan’s latest Consumer attitudes towards dentistry survey, conducted by Yougov (2013), reveals that:

  • 79% of parents don’t take their children to the dentist within the recommended timeframe from when the first tooth appears
  • 79% wait until their children are over a year old before taking them to the dentist, while 5% wait until their children turn five
  • Fewer than half of the 18-34 year olds surveyed with children under 16 (47%) take their children to the dentist every six months, compared with 75% of the over-45 age group
  • Of those parents who say they haven’t taken their children to the dentist (10%), the survey’s regional breakdown shows the highest number being from the south, with an alarming 15% of parents having never taken their children to the dentist, followed closely by the east at 14% and London at 11%.

Raise awareness

Some of these results are really quite shocking, but some simple marketing ideas to catch the attention of your young patients can not only help us change these figures, but can help you recruit potential new patients across all age groups – so it’s well worth looking into as part of your future growth and retention plans.

You may find inspiration from the top recruitment and retention tips listed here:

  1. Children’s treasure chest – make the most of your local pound shop – a small investment in toys for children, wrapped up and put in a chest, can be a great reward for them when they’ve been good during their appointment, and will encourage parents to spread the word about your services
  2. Tablet games – make sure that your waiting room is child friendly. Keep an iPad or other tablet locked to a station to keep children entertained – you could even use this in the surgery
  3. Log baby news – when you know a patient has had their baby, send them a congratulations card. You could even offer to see the child for free once their first tooth appears – a great PR story that your local press may also be interested in
  4. Video about oral health – try playing a DVD in your waiting room to entertain and engage children while they wait
  5. Preventer worksheets – Denplan has several Denplan preventers worksheets featuring our dental health superheroes for different age groups that can be downloaded from an online portal – these are a great way for children to learn more about their oral health and to give you something to talk about with their parents too
  6. Rewards for recommending a friend – try a prize draw every few months for patients who recommend your practice to a friend. Prizes such as days out to local theme parks, children’s activity centres and animal parks will always appeal to families
  7. Open evenings – hold an open evening or liaise with your local toddler group or National Childbirth Trust group to speak with families about oral health
  8. School visits – visit your local school, handing out worksheets and toothbrushes and speaking to children about the importance of brushing their teeth. Take a photo of your visit and send it to the local media to encourage them to write about you
  9. Children’s club – engage with your local community by sponsoring a local sports or activity club. You could pay for mouth guards for the local rugby team – a great way to get your practice name noticed by sporting families in the area
  10. National Smile Month – Make the most of National Smile Month (NSM). You could try setting up a toothbrush amnesty, where children can swap their old brushes for a new one – this also gives you the perfect opportunity to talk to their parents while they’re with you. You can find more NSM ideas at www.denplan.co.uk/nsm.

These tips will not only help you to raise awareness of the importance of oral health and encourage parents to book appointments for their children, they will also help your practice to stand out in your local community.

Do you treat children attending an independent school?

You may have already thought about working with other businesses in your local area to promote your practice, such as gyms and opticians, but have you considered working with your local independent schools?

By offering a way for pupils and employees of your local independent school a way to recover the costs of their dental treatment, you could see an increase in patients for your practice.

Denplan, for example, now offers three plans to benefit pupils, their parents and the employees of independent schools, so it’s worth asking your payment plan specialist about what options and value added services are available as part of your membership.

Attracting new patients into your practice need not be an expensive or laborious task. With the right focus on the correct demographic group for your area you can limit your activity to only attract like-minded patients and ensure the growth of your business well into the future.

That said, a consistent level of marketing effort is necessary in these unsettled economic times. You can always look at it in the same way as you look at your patients’ oral health – you have to put something in to get the best results back.


All figures are from Yougov Plc. Total sample size was 4116 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14 and 23 January 2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults aged 18+.

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