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The 4 Phrases That Get Dental Patients To Refer You And Why They Work

If you read my post, “17 Ways Dentists Ask for Referrals… And What They’re Doing Wrong”, you can probably see why I’m less-than-optimistic about scripts. Reading them makes me want to never ask for a referral from anyone ever again. Even so, I’m sure you saw a few phrases that stuck out and sounded like something an actual person might say. Let’s take a look at the ones that resonated and why.

“We’re always looking for more patients just like you.”
This sentiment is a powerful one for both new and existing clients. People like to feel welcomed, recognized, and like they’re part of the team, especially at unfamiliar places. This creates a sense of ownership and investment, making the patient want to help out and see their dentist succeed. It’s also a compliment and ego boost. If, as a patient, your dentist thinks you are the platonic ideal of a good patient, (and you like your dentist) of course you’re going to come back, and it’s very possible that you’ll sign on some of your peers– who are surely just as wonderful as you– as well, since the dentist explicitly told you they need the help.

A big benefit is that “always looking” implies that there is (1) no bad time for referrals and (2) that the practice can use the help even when the patient isn’t around. They aren’t just a patient, they’re part of the team.

Some of the examples used the words “love”, “practice” (as in a dental practice), or “refer”. “Love” can be a little too much of a stretch for some patients to associate with their dentist, but if the L-word suits your style (or your assistants’), use it to show how much their help means to you. “Practice” and “refer” are too clinical, so don’t use them in this context. This isn’t about you, it’s about making the patient feel good while giving them an opportunity to help you, their friends and family, and most importantly, themselves.

“Thank you.”
It’s common courtesy, so you probably already say “thank you” to your clients. The key is using it in a context that you can follow up with talking about referrals. In the examples, it was implied that the dentist has just received a compliment from the patient. If you do good work, patients will compliment you, and you can use that as an opportunity to thank them and lead into your line about referrals. If you want to trigger patients into complimenting you, you’ll want to ask them questions after a procedure. Examples are: “How does your ___ look/feel?”, “Can you tell a difference?”, or “Does your ___ feel better?” You can also trigger positive feedback by complimenting the patient, which makes them likely to reciprocate.

“If you have any trouble/issues/problems… please give me a call so I can help you.”
This is an incredibly effective phrase that only came up once. In the context of the example I found it in, it’s lacking, but on its own, it’s perfect. You might say this after a significant procedure to give your patient peace of mind, letting them know that you care. If something were to go wrong in the coming days, they know not to freak out because they have you as a resource. This shows your patients that you’re there to help without you having to be available at their every beck and call. If nothing goes wrong, this demonstrates your credibility and preparedness. It makes you someone worth referring. To incorporate this into asking for referrals, you could say “And if you know anyone with the same problem, let me know.”

“…who may be looking for a new dentist…”
This is subtle, but the phrasing here really makes a difference. It’s so, so important to frame the way to talk about referrals correctly because patients can easily be turned off to the idea or they may think you’re asking for something else. I’m against using the term “friends or family” with this phrase because it’s been overused by referral hounds like real estate agents and salespeople. The broader terms “someone”, “somebody”, or just “friend” opens up the patient to think of everyone they know.

The word “may” is surprisingly significant here: without it, you’re asking “Do you know someone who is looking for a new dentist?”. The answer to that question is no. People don’t advertise the fact that they’re looking for a new dentist to their friends. They don’t tend to go roaming around for dentists like they’re on a job hunt. Asking this way can be limiting. People who are new in town, have recently had children, or just had a bad experience with a dentist come to mind as people who may be looking for a dentist. And your patient may know these people.

Words are critical. They’re how you turn an ordinary practice that does good work into someone’s favorite dentist ever, the one they actively tell people about and review online. No script will ever be perfect, so make a point to speak with your staff about how to talk about referrals, planning out who will do the talking, when, and how to follow up.

At, we work with dentists to reach more patients and get more referrals. Call or e-mail the marketing machines to learn more: (800) 808-0249 or