The winds of change

From – trends are global – by Guy Hiscott

A new survey suggests that patient loyalty may be on the wane – and that patients who are dissatisfied with their care might vote with their feet without dentists knowing.

Dental corporate Oasis, which commissioned the survey, has warned that the results indicate a changing public attitude towards dentistry.

Barely more than a third of those aged between 16-24 described themselves as ‘loyal’ to their dentist. And the number of people who ‘would not change their dentist unless they really had to’ has dropped to less than half (43%).

One quarter of respondents said they were either certain, or likely, to change their dentist in the future.

Almost half said if they had a bad experience at a practice, they would either move to a different one or never go back to the original one.

Almost half of patients under the age of 35 admitted to researching treatments online before deciding to go ahead.

Justin Ash, chief executive of Oasis, says that dentists need to acknowledge that patients are becoming more demanding.

Speaking exclusively to Dentistry, he said: ‘Three years ago,when we first asked people how loyal they were to their dentist, 54% said they would not switch from their dentist whatever happened. We’re now three surveys on and that number is 43% – that’s a dramatic switch.

‘Access is increasing, and at the same time, patients are becoming more selective about how they choose their dentist. If things go wrong, then the dentist often doesn’t hear anything about it.

‘But the bottom line is that if you haven’t seen your patient for a while, there’s a reasonable chance they weren’t comfortable with the treatment, and they’ve gone somewhere else. People are becoming as demanding of dentistry as they are of everything else.’

The survey also showed that nearly a third (28%) of patients shop around for different prices for treatment – a figure that jumped to 40% for people living in London.

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