Advertising dental clinics: how to compete with a bigger brand

I’ve always been somewhat obsessed with my teeth since my mom told me about a scary mouth disease when I was a child. As a result, I’ve been lucky with my teeth and I enjoy going to the dentist whenever I have checkups.

I know that many people don’t feel the same way and that’s why I think it’s great that some dentists specialize in helping patients with dental anxiety. There are many businesses like Louis Siegelman’s that take advantage of the terrific positioning when advertising a dental clinic.

Advertising dental clinic

Advertising dental clinics can be tricky and that’s why we’ll look at advertising examples, what good ads tend to have in common and how you can leverage that for your own clinic.

Dental ad examples

I want to highlight a few examples that don’t promote a specific clinic but can be a great inspiration as they have been proven on the big screen to draw attention and laughs.

The first one is from the TV show Friends and Ross getting his teeth whitened for a date.

If your target patients are old enough to remember this scene, they might find it fun to see a reference to it in the ad – the tricky part is not breaking the copyright rules.

Another is Gina’s replacement teeth in the show Brooklyn 99.

Real-world examples advertising a dental clinic

Now let’s look at a couple of examples advertising a dental clinic in the real world. This one is from the Altschul clinic.

Advertising dental clinic example

This next one isn’t as much a single ad as it is an entire story and world for kids visiting the dentist in Scandinavia. It’s named after cavies and bacteria as two friendly trolls to show what happens when kids eat too much candy.

The storybooks are available at many clinics, come with posters kids can look at and usually a little toy when completing the visit at the clinic to make them feel less afraid of a visit in the future.

Advertising dental clinic example

During my research I took the liberty of browsing Facebook’s dental ads and found these you might like for inspiration.

video marketing for dentists - examples
video marketing for dentists - examples
video marketing for dentists - examples

Campaign ideas for advertising dental clinics

I wanted to highlight a couple of other ideas that weren’t necessarily specific ad creative ideas but rather ideas related to targeting or other aspects of your dental clinic’s advertising campaign.

The best channels

Channels are among the most important elements of an ad campaign in my opinion, as that determines whether we reach the patients we are trying to reach or some that aren’t interested.

I know it sounds crazy these days but compared to digital media, it seems like offline media like billboards still carries weight in building trust with potential new patients. On the other hand, they better do since there are so many downsides to them compared to digital media such as difficulty tracking the performance and having to pay a premium with fixed contracts rather than self-service platforms.

The channel that most of us focus on if we work in the industry is search because of the ability to reach people that have expressed interest in dental services right this minute. It’s an expensive channel as competition is high but usually the best place to get started with your dental ads.

Social media is on everyone’s mind these days with Facebook ads blowing up because of the ability to scale, targeting configuration, and affordability. It tends to be significantly more affordable than search ads for example but the challenge for us is that it’s tricky to target the right people since we can base it on what users are looking for right now like we can with search engines.

That means it’s challenging to reach patients needing urgent help and easier to go after those who have been thinking about getting braces, a whitening, or fixing their smile for a while. One thing we can do though is retarget the people from our search campaigns on Facebook since they’ve already expressed interest.

Referrals is always a strong channel although it can feel challenging to track and grow as many people feel hesitant to share their experience. It can work well hand in hand with partnerships for example with influencers as they tend to be more comfortable sharing their experience. Of course, it’s challenging to truly benefit from that unless we are able to offer many locations as digital promotions can reach anyone in the world rather than just our city.

How to compete with a bigger brand

One of the best opportunities we have to compete with bigger brands as the underdog is to leverage that they have to adhere to corporate politics and stakeholders that aren’t specialists in advertising. That means they usually keep things conservative and avoid risks which turns out often isn’t that great if we are looking for a return on investment on our ad campaigns.

One of the most powerful ways to break off a bit of their customer base is by focusing on a smaller segment and being the perfect solution just for that. Examples of customer segments like that as inspiration for your ad campaign might be:

  • Teeth whitening
  • Fear of dentists
  • Fix your smile
  • Braces
  • Replacement teeth
  • Teeth implants
  • Kids friendly

If your startup chose the route of offering many different types of care besides dental, there might be synergies to explore between those services. 

What good dental clinic ads have in common

With a few of the basic tips out of the way, let’s jump into what good dental clinic advertising has in common.

The high-level steps needed to create a well-performing ad are to:

  • Identify who your best patients are so you can create precise targeting, pick the right channel for your ad and reach the people you intended to reach (sounds simple but that isn’t always the case)
  • Identify the biggest benefit you offer and confirm that your patients actually care about this and not just you
  • Identify how your clinic is different from others so you patients can clearly tell when they see two similar ads

Let’s dive into each point.

Identify who your best patients are so you can create precise targeting and pick the right channel for your ad

One of my favorite ad experiments is knowing who I’m going after and figuring out which set of configurations to use to reach them. 

You’d think that would be pretty straight forward but that isn’t always the case. For example, if you choose to target expats in Germany based on the fact that they speak English, do you know how the system knows that each person it reaches understands it?

It could be a German who just started learning English and set their device settings to English which is common advice for language learners. Or that they liked an English school because they were considering joining it, or that they wrote messages in English to their friends using chat software like Facebook Messenger.

Maybe you’ve found a set of “power patients” (power users) that you want to find more of. The most effective approach I’ve found is to list out different categories of things they might be related to and then specific names of things they are interested in within each. 

For example:

  • Languages they speak
  • Software they use
  • Sports they like
  • Hobbies they have
  • Job title
  • Industry organizations they follow
  • Chronic disease related magazines or websites

The list is never ending and each of those items can be considered a bucket that we can combine with other buckets (items) to reach just the right person.

Identify the biggest benefit you offer and confirm that your patients actually care about this and not just you

Work through targeting exercises and you might run into a situation where you have several subsegments where all of them get different benefits from your services. For example, parents of teens with crooked teeth might want them to wear braces whereas grandparents might want replacement teeth.

That’s why it’s challenging to create one dental clinic advertisement that covers all the different reasons someone goes to the dentist. In the best case, the message gets watered down. In the worst case, the target patients see it and mistakenly think that it isn’t for them.

One of the best and simplest ways to do that is to get customer service or the reception to ask new patients where they found you and why they are looking for the care they want. You are probably already doing that and the key is to catalog it so you can compare responses with your most popular services. 

After that, I’d also consider comparing the most popular services in terms of profitability to see if one scales better than another. You might be surprised. The challenge with some services is that the margin is so low that it’s hard to compete with ads since the cost of that has to be accounted for with each patient unless you have a strong backend with multiple services to cover it over or strong retention and are comfortable waiting a while for the payback.

Benefits are often mistaken with features. For example, braces might give us the feature that our teeth grow straight or “uncrook” themselves and the benefit of that is that we can smile without feeling embarrassed about our teeth and feel as if we have to hide them. That’s what we are really getting.

A simple way to identify the benefit instead of the feature is to ask yourself “so that…?” about each feature you want to highlight. For example “braces make your teeth grow straight so that you can smile without feeling embarrassed and hiding your teeth.

Identify how your clinic is different from others so you patients can clearly tell

Finally, we have to consider how our dental clinic stands out from other clinics that might be advertising to the same patient. Here are two examples that feel quite similar – both are running with the tagline “No insurance? No problem!” and new patient specials available.

Example 1

Example 2

Unless we prefer to go to Cottonwood Heights or Saratoga Springs, it can feel difficult to pick between the two and that’s exactly the situation we want to avoid putting the patient in. 

One way is to offer free cleaning for a limited time or something else that might attract them to make a decision right now. Another is the overall positioning of the clinic or services like being nearby, seeing patients with max. 30 mins wait time or seeing walk-in patients.

The trick is to pick something that you are confident your best patients care about, not what you and I or low-quality patients care about.

One approach is to talk to the patients and another is to test different positioning ideas with ads and track the results. You might find that before/after examples (not allowed with Facebook ads anymore but works on other platforms) work well along with things like quizzes.

One of the biggest mistakes in advertising dental clinics is assuming that we just need to create one ad and we’ll hit a home run.

The reality for pro advertisers is that there are usually different combinations between positioning and offers that work for different patients, so it’s worth testing different ideas against each other and letting the market choose which one is best based on the bookings each one gets.


  • Advertising platforms love to tell us how amazing they are at reaching the right people for you but that often requires intense targeting configurations – if you ad isn’t performing there is a good chance you might not be reaching the patients you think you are reaching
  • Remember to consider how your ad will stand out if a patient sees your ad next to another dental clinic advertisement
  • Don’t assume the right advertisement will present itself right off the bat. It’s normal to run iterations and experiments, and pick the best performing ad based on how it converts potential patients into bookings
  • Read more about video marketing for dentists

By Aske

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