Patients Expect More from Their Dentists and Employers

Dentistry Today
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Just as technologies evolve, so do patients. Millennials expect much more from their dentists than previous generations—and they aren’t afraid to shop around until they get it. And while all patients share a basic set of needs such as quality of care, office environment, and insurance coverage, millennials are particularly demanding in key areas, according to research from the Lincoln Financial Group. Meanwhile, patients overall want more from their employers, too.

For example, 40% of millennials say that a dentist’s website is “very important,” compared to 14% of baby boomers. On those websites, consumers want to see a list of accepted insurance providers (75%), how to schedule or change appointments (73%), and the costs of dental procedures (67%). Also, 77% of millennials say it’s important for a dentist’s website to be mobile-optimized, and 51% would “absolutely” find value in a mobile app from their dentist.

Nearly 40% of all consumers want a dental office that will take immediate appointments. About a third look for a dentist who offers either extended hours on weeknights or weekend hours. Those numbers are even higher for millennials, at 46% and 44%, respectively. Plus, 96% overall said it would be valuable if the dental office would help them better understand their insurance plan, and 62% said this support would be “very” valuable.

“Understanding what all generations value in the market is important. However, it’s even more critical to understand younger generations since these consumers will help shape the future of dental care,” said Christopher Stevens, head of dental product management at Lincoln Financial. “Dental offices have an opportunity to make simple enhancements to their practices that can help attract and retain patients and meet these evolving needs.” 

While 82% of consumers call dental insurance a key employee benefit and 54% call it a “must have,” many of them lack knowledge about their plans. Only half say their employer is a good resource for understanding what’s covered. Lincoln Financial says this lack of education impacts their dental habits, with 25% of those who have dental insurance not seeing the dentist in the previous 12 months due to cost.

“Consumers may not be taking full advantage of their dental benefits due to a simple lack of knowledge about their insurance plans,” said Stevens. “Often, dental insurance will fully cover the cost of preventive care such as annual or biannual dental visits and cleanings. If a quarter of these individuals, who indicated they have dental coverage, responded that they aren’t going to the dentist because of cost, they’re probably not making that connection.”

Additionally, Lincoln Financial found that 65% of consumers want their employer to provide general information about what’s covered by their dental insurance plan, 54% would like their employer to provide a list of local in-network dentists, and 34% would appreciate ratings or rankings of in-network dentists.

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