How we live and breathe our practice plan

DPAS Dental Plans caught up with Catherine Tannahill to chat about how her dental plan has made her practice happier, healthier and more profitable.

Dentistry is a very people-focused profession and one of the things I absolutely love about practice life is building relationships with my patients. The role a dental plan can play in supporting such a relationship is highly valuable because patients understand that it’s there to take care of them and their dental health needs.

When I bought the practice in 2007, I set about rebranding it as The Smile Rooms. My thinking was to underpin the transition from our current premises to a newly renovated practice by introducing the DPAS maintenance plan, helping patients to spread the cost of their routine care.

I initially decided to launch the plan using a mailshot, but this was met with limited success. I subsequently learnt that the best way to communicate the benefits of the plan and convert patients onto it was through personal endorsement and talking directly to them as they came into the practice. But in order to do this effectively, I needed my team to be able to talk confidently about the plan and its benefits.

I approached DPAS to explore the various training programmes they offered around the plan and I can honestly say that was the turning point; so much so, that in 2011, and despite being in the midst of a recession, I renovated a building nearby and moved the practice into it.

We gained extra space, disabled access and a more up-to-date and contemporary feel. This truly elevated the business and the ambience of the practice and we quickly started to attract large numbers of new patients. My goal was a high-quality private practice underpinned by a strong plan base, offering a wealth of different treatments and with less need to refer. I was finally starting to realise this goal!

The ongoing training provided by our DPAS practice consultant really did change the ethos of the team, as they saw for themselves the value of the plan to our patients and so found it easier to promote the benefits with genuine belief and enthusiasm. At this point, plan levels really started to increase month on month, giving us a good income base that we could reinvest back into the practice.

I really wanted to create a plan culture where patients weren’t in any doubt of our intention with regard to their oral health. We find that our plan patients have healthier mouths and need less treatment in the long term because of this.

During our morning huddle, we discuss which patients aren’t signed up to the plan that are due in that day. This allows us to ensure that a conversation occurs when that patient comes in, as we would not wish them to feel that they had missed out! All the team have a role to play in promoting the plan with each team member carrying out their part in the plan customer experience. For instance:

  • Our front desk team make patients aware of the option of the plan as soon as they first contact the practice
  • All our mailings mention the plan and our treatment cost sheets automatically print with our plan details and what cost savings could be made
  • We always provide two estimates to new patients; one with full fees and one with plan member fees, so that patients can see the immediate cost benefit
  • We emphasise the long-term benefits of being a plan member. Our treatment coordinator goes through the plan carefully with the patient; it really is rare that a new patient doesn’t sign up immediately
  • We regularly reinforce the value of the plan by reminding patients about their insurance policy as part of their plan.

I think it also helps that our plan is branded to our practice; our patients feel a sense of belonging and we have the freedom to really tailor our plan levels to suit our patient and practice needs. We have strong branding and I think it would be diluted with the introduction of an additional brand.

Whilst I would say this, I feel we have a very special team at The Smile Rooms and this helps to retain what is a very loyal patient base. What’s our special ingredient? I would say enthusiasm! The enthusiasm of our team ensures that our patients are enthusiastic too. Both the team and the patients are proud to belong to The Smile Rooms and are our greatest ambassadors.

If, like Catherine, you would like a plan that will help you improve the dental health of your patients as well as improve the long-term business viability of your practice, call 01747 870 910 or visit to find out how the team can help you.

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