I am genuinely jealous of the marketing person who first used the term ’pain-free dentistry’. It has indeed been a great invention and served many dental practices over the past years or even decades. At the same time, I feel genuinely sorry for the patients who type ’pain-free dentist’ into Google, trying to find a place to resolve their problems. Why? Because they are scared and frightened. And hundreds of private dental care advertisements try to benefit from their vulnerability.

Dentistry in general has been pain-free for a long long time. To be precise, ever since the invention of local anaesthetics. And to be honest… not very much happened since then. Obviously, there are techniques to increase the comfort level of the patients like topical gels or tiny needles but there was no major breakthrough that we could call a true game changer. And… It is not a problem at all!

Dentistry can not always be completely pain-free. Pain plays a major role in making a diagnosis. Pain may be unavoidable when performing treatments that typically do not require local anaesthetics (i.e., orthodontics). Sometimes there is simply no way to switch pain off – just think about a severely inflamed tooth that no injection has an effect on.

You, as a dentist shall grab every opportunity to make treatments as pain-free for your patients as possible. But this is something to be expected from you, and not an extra service. If your online or offline communication is based on being pain-free, it will make your patients have extremely high expectations towards your clinic. If a gluten-free croissant shall not contain a single gram of gluten, a pain-free dental clinic shall have a zero-tolerance policy against pain. This puts great pressure on dentists.

Just to clarify, I do not think anything bad about clinics that advertise being pain-free. Very often there is a great quality service and professionalism behind these words. But I think that being pain-free is a statement that is equally true (and untrue) for every single dental practice. At the same time it increases the expectations to a point where they can never be completely met. And therefore, it puts the patient satisfaction at risk.

Try to emphasize your true and unique values when planning your marketing communication and find the values that make you different from your competitors. Always be empathetic when handling pain but never forget to inform your patients openly and honestly about the inconveniences they may experience. This is the least you can do. And the most as well.

Zoltán Máté