Occasionally I found my spoon on my high chair about some aspect of dental practice marketing that I feel is being overlooked or under-considered. In this issue, my spoon bashing rant is about dental emergencies. It’s called: “Why do so many dentists hate emergency patients?” Subtitled: “What’s wrong with making some good dough today?”

Yes, I’ve heard all the arguments – “Oh, they’re just one-timers – get them out of pain and they never come back.” That’s a good one, and it has the rather attractive feature of also being true. Here’s another – actually a spin off of the first one: “Well, they aren’t going to join our ‘family of patients’ so why should I bother with them?” Another nice one – and also quite true.

But my favorite is: “They mess up our schedule!” I really like that one. It’s like complaining that when you won the lotto you had to actually drive down to the office to pick up a million bucks. I mean why can’t they just bank wire it? Sheesh, how inconvenient!

So what is an emergency patient? Caveat: I’m talking about a REAL emergency patient. Not some druggie who’s oddly allergic to everything except Percodan.

It’s someone who calls or comes into your office and they are in PAIN. What does this almost always boil down to? Root canal, build-up, and crown, Right? I mean isn’t that right about 95% of the time? And being that they are in PAIN and want relief (like right now!!!) – that seems to me to be a MOTIVATED patient, wouldn’t you agree?

Do we not want and dream about and advertise for MOTIVATED patients?

You could actually tell them that they have to make peace with their 4 ex-wives and pay all back child support before you’d treat them and they’d say, “No problem, and I’ll even send my Mom some flowers and oh, do you need your car washed?”

I’d call that an easy sell, wouldn’t you?

These services amount to what? Just fill in the blank. No matter what your fees are, it’s a good bit of dough, isn’t it?

And emergencies also have these other features and benefits:

  • They are not like veneers – RCT and crown are covered (fully or partly) by insurance.
  • This is unplanned for money.
  • This is unexpected money.
  • Your dental office marketing expense for this money is low or none, consisting mostly of a line in your marketing that says, “Emergencies welcome.”

So what if they never return to join your “family of patients?” Who cares? You just made some income you didn’t expect to make that day! And, if you didn’t hurt them, or make them feel guilty, they now think you’re wonderful.

At that point, they will either change their behavior or decide to see you more often or they will continue their neglect and you know there will be another emergency for you down the road. Either way, you win.

I don’t know – I think I’d give up my lunch or shuffle a couple of patients to make low cost, unexpected and unplanned for dollars.