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The 5 Reasons Why Dental Membership Programs Work

The 5 Reasons Why Dental Membership Programs Work

12/1/2014 11:31:18 AM   |   Comments: 2   |   Views: 2494

What is a Dental Wellness Membership Plan?

An in-house dental wellness membership plans allows patients to purchase a “membership” to a specific dental practice that provides all of their preventive wellness care needs, such as professional dental cleanings, dentist exams, required x-rays, an emergency exam if needed, and savings on other restorative and cosmetic procedures. By offering an in-house dental membership savings plan, dental practices have a simple option for reaching the growing number of uninsured patients in their communities.

Eliminates #1 Reason Patients Avoid the Dentist

The primary reason patients avoid the dentist is a lack of insurance.(1) By offering an in-house membership plan as an alternative to insurance directly through the practice, dental professionals are addressing the primary barrier to increasing new patient flow and practice growth.

Currently, 46% of the potential patient population in the United States does not have dental insurance(2), and 87% of patients purchasing new medical insurance plans on the ACA exchange are opting out of the dental option3. Since 2003, the number of insured patients in the United States has been on the decline(4). Therefore, the need for a dental practice to offer some type of alternative for patients that do not have dental insurance is essential for practice growth.

It’s Sticky

Membership plans are extremely simple concepts for patients to understand, and many patients often hold membership plans to other local service providers. As a member, patients make small monthly payments in exchange for necessary preventive dental services and as a loyal member, they receive special discounts on other services. In comparison to complex dental insurance plans, a direct membership plan is clear, concise, and affordable and clarity trumps everything else in business (Image 1).

By making small monthly payments for the membership plan, their dental membership quickly becomes a habitual part of their monthly expenses rather than an unexpected or unbudgeted variable cost. This allows the dental practice to build a patient base with a membership mentality that will increase patient retention and secure patients to their practice for life.

Sold Anywhere, Anytime

If the practice phone was ringing on Tuesday at 10:00 am, would you ignore it? Dental practices often lose potential new patients simply due to availability. By offering the monthly membership plan on a practice website with an e-provider partner, it can be purchased by new or existing patients at any time. Rather than giving a potential new patient a business card, or telling them to call the practice during business hours, patients can go to the practice’s website and sign up immediately. The entire dental team can in effect become full time sales ambassadors for the dental practice.

This is also very important when it comes to ROI on marketing endeavors. Whether using social media, mailers, or other media forms, new uninsured patients may want to join the practice during non-business hours. Instead of a call to action of filling out a website contact form or call during business hours, these patients can purchase a membership through the website immediately.

One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is thinking they can’t sell their services online. Online business-to-customer sales in the United States is growing in the double digits every year, while brick and mortar sales flat line. A membership plan offered through a practice’s website allows a practice to capitalize on a large volume of local customers who otherwise may have chosen an alternative simply due to the ease of service availability. Over half of the dental membership plans purchased by patients are occurring outside of normal business hours according to e-provider statistics.

Puts Responsibility of Appointment on Patient

A wellness membership plan also creates a very smart psychological change in the business dynamics between the dental practice and patients. Hygiene appointments are the lifeblood of any practice. Instead of chasing existing patients with or without standard dental insurance with mailers, phone calls, texts and emails to make and maintain their hygiene appointments, membership plans put the responsibility of maintaining appointments on the patient rather than the practice.

While it is recommended and prudent to notify patients of their lapse in dental care, the patient’s membership dues are being paid automatically to the practice, and if the patient chooses not to make and maintain their appointments, the financial consequences are already built into the membership plan. An average of 18% (5) of patients who have coverage for preventive care do not see the dentist twice a year. Instead of an insurance company reaping that financial benefit, the financial windfall goes to the practice where it belongs.

Independence and Control

One of the biggest issues dental practices that are dependent on insurance patients face is the lack of control over fees and payments from dental insurance companies. As the number of insured continues to decrease and costs continue to rise, dental insurance companies are putting the squeeze on practice providers in order to maintain their revenues. By building an independent membership patient base, practices begin build a more secure future for the practice.

With a membership plan, the practice sets the membership prices, fees, and exclusions for any discounted services, putting them in control of their own revenues. Membership patients also have a much higher acceptance rate of restorative and cosmetic treatment plans because the special membership discount gives them the secure feeling of obtaining a “good deal” on the quality dentistry they want and need, opposed to the decision process of patients in need of dentistry that is “not covered” by their insurance, or who are not receiving a membership discount. These circumstances immediately create a psychological barrier to the patient saying “yes”.

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