Your dental practice’s waiting room environment can make your patients comfortable and put them at ease—or it can stress them out and make them more anxious about their upcoming appointment. Which is yours doing?
Since many patients already suffer from "dental anxiety," no dentist can afford to have a waiting room that contributes to the stress. Here’s how to make your waiting room environment a pleasant one.
- Provide distractions and entertainment. Forget the outdated magazines from 1987 — a TV screen draws patients in and keeps them from thinking about the upcoming procedure. My Practice TV and SmileVision TV are two waiting room options that provide dental-related programming you can customize with your own logo or use to promote your practice’s services. If you think watching any type of dental video will make your patients more anxious, choose inoffensive TV content that all ages can appreciate. Just about every audience will enjoy cooking shows (everyone likes to eat); if your practice specializes in children's dentistry, you can play children's cartoons or Disney movies. You don't need a lot of content—a couple of hours is plenty; have it repeat on a loop.
- Create a soothing environment. Use all five senses to make your waiting room a relaxing place. Start with comfortable seating and soothing colors. Soft neutrals like cream, gray, pale blue and pale green — the colors of nature — appeal to everyone. Any "dental office" smell from the treatment areas can be neutralized with potpourri or other scented products — just make sure they aren’t too strong for sensitive noses. Even the way your front desk staff speaks has an effect on your patients' attitudes. Train them to avoid loud conversation, high-pitched laughter or other jarring noises and speak in calm, low, pleasant tones.
- Separate the waiting room from the treatment area. Many dentists are working with small office spaces, but it's worth doing a bit of remodeling if necessary to create a clear demarcation between your waiting room and your chairs. Nothing puts nervous patients on edge more than being in a waiting room and hearing the sound of a dental drill! Putting a door between the waiting room and the treatment rooms can help immensely; if necessary, you may even want to invest in some soundproofing. Soft music playing in your waiting room will also help calm patients down while masking any sounds that come from the treatment area. A tropical fish tank is a time-tested distraction that provides soothing sounds and keeps children occupied.
- Schedule patients appropriately to reduce wait times. No matter how nice your waiting room is, no one wants to spend an hour sitting there. Even patients who have no dental phobias will become annoyed if they have to wait…and wait… after arriving on time for a scheduled appointment. Long wait times could lead to poor word-of-mouth or negative online reviews for your practice. Know how long procedures will take so you can build in enough time for each patient to be treated without too much downtime in between.
- Follow up to confirm appointments and eliminate late arrivals. Lighthouse 360 helps ensure that your patients arrive on time by sending automatic appointment reminders and reminder messages for patients who need to come back for recommended treatments. Confirmations by email, text or phone go directly to your patient management system, and your staff can communicate with patients one-on-one if needed. Lighthouse 360 creates follow-up lists that make it easy to keep track of which patients haven't confirmed their appointments, so your staff can follow up.