Case acceptance is always at the forefront in our industry—how do we get the patient to want to spend money on the dentistry they need?
I’ve heard most of the suggestions: sit next to them and be their friend; send home a PowerPoint to the patient’s spouse that shows pictures of their teeth as a motivator; use certain words to ignite a desire in the patient to get the treatment done and many more.
Wouldn’t our lives as health care professionals be easier if we could figure out a sure-fire way to get our patients to want what they need?
Think about it. People always find ways to afford what they want. They stand in line to get the latest Apple product. They save up to take that Disney vacation. They get interest-free financing to buy that new big-screen TV. Imagine if patients prioritized dentistry in the same way—if they could leave our offices feeling excited and happy about what they just purchased!
We all want the same thing - to find a foolproof way to get patients to want dentistry and happily shell out their hard-earned cash for their treatment plans. I would love for people to be excited about what we do and how we can help them. It would be amazing if the public would change their opinion about going to the dentist and getting work done to save their teeth.
However, it’s just not going to happen. At least not in my lifetime. No one is ever going to feel excited and happy about having a piece of balloon material clasped down over their mouth, getting drills and needles in their mouth, smelling their tooth as it gets grinded away and drooling down their numb cheek. Then, you ask them to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the privilege of undergoing the procedure—the icing on the cake.
When it comes to case acceptance, there are three key factors to help our patients push through, to get to them to a place where they want what they need.
Be persistent. We can’t tell the patient just one time what they need and then hope they follow through with it. They must be fully convinced of the importance and feel psychologically ready to act. Most people are just not going to be ready right away. Like me, they may not take the first available opportunity to get the work done—but if we are gently persistent about the need for it to happen, they will usually schedule it.
Clearly explain why they need the work. When a person is considering what you are saying, they are weighing it with other things they want to have. Let’s say a patient needs a bridge, but they really have their eye on a new big-screen TV and getting the dental work done next week means they’ll have to wait a few more weeks or months for the TV. It’s your job to help them differentiate between a TV they will use an hour or two a day for relaxation and their teeth which they use every day, all day, to chew, eat, smile and talk. Spell it out for the patient and help them see their dental health has to be a priority.
Recognize that patients are not educated in dentistry. They don’t really comprehend the outcome of not taking care of their teeth until, unfortunately, it’s too late and they are in pain or lose a tooth. You must make sure your patients understand what is likely to happen to their teeth without the treatment you recommend. You’ll have to explain the treatment in a way they understand, not in dental speak. The number one way to help patients understand where they are headed without care is by showing them a picture. Give them a visual example of what happened to another person’s tooth with a similar issue that went untreated. Then, they’ll see the potential harm for their tooth and hopefully choose a better outcome for themselves. A picture is worth a thousand words.
We need to accept that patients simply will not ever want to buy our treatment plans. But, they are often willing to invest in their dental health when they understand the alternative. As healthcare providers, we are here to provide our patients with what they need. If we ask our patients what they “want” to do, we are not going to help many people. If we change our approach and our attitude about educating patients, we will help our patients live a longer, better life.