The Right Answers by Corey Johnson

Dentaltown Magazine

These responses to the top questions asked by callers can help convert them to new patients

by Corey Johnson

An estimated 65% of American adults visited their local dentist or dental clinic in 2016. That’s a prominent segment of the population concerned with their dental health.All of these individuals could be a phone call away from becoming a new patient of your practice.

Competition is fiercer than ever in the dental industry. There are more than 200,000 practicing dentists in the U.S.,2 and according to the ADA, the average dental patient spends $514 per year on his or her dental needs.3 This revenue represents a successful win or staggering loss for your practice if potential patients aren’t treated right the first time they call.

So, what’s the secret? How do dental offices acquire a steady stream of new patients? One word: preparation.

Your practice undoubtedly receives a ton of calls, but it’s often hard to immediately assess which calls are for new patients, which makes it even harder to convert those callers. You have only seconds to secure a new patient when he or she first calls, so being ready is crucial.

Preparation means having full knowledge of questions commonly asked by patients and the respective answers. If your staff knows how to answer the most common questions effectively and guide the patient to booking an appointment, your dental practice will gain the trust of the patient and, ideally, get the appointment. By arming your team with answers, you can get ahead of potential problems and provide the best patient service possible.

Stay in control of the conversation and help lead the patient
to the appointment. Once you answer a question, redirect
the conversation to the next step of the booking process.

“Do you accept [blank] insurance?”
Most dental insurance providers cover at least a portion of any preventive treatments. In addition, it’s always a good practice to offer to acquire a breakdown of any patient’s insurance policy. The most successful practices get the breakdown ahead of an appointment to provide an accurate assessment of costs. Offer to have the comprehensive insurance breakdown ready for that patient to go over when you discuss the patient’s treatment plan. If your practice doesn’t accept a particular insurance, inform the patient that you can still bill out to any insurance provider.

Suggested answer: “We are in network with most providers. We’ll be sure to send a request for a comprehensive policy breakdown in advance of your appointment. I’ll have that breakdown available to you when we discuss any potential treatment plans.”
Redirect: “Have you been to our practice before?”

“When is your first available appointment?”
In regard to general availability, being prepared with appointment options is essential to gaining new patients. Check availability before the day starts, while always having the calendar open throughout the day. The quicker you can help patients, the happier they’ll be. Furthermore, guide patients to the best option that fits their schedules by offering two specific options. In doing so, you’ll ask A/B questions that lead to a firm date and time. This allows patients to avoid mentally shuffling through their schedules and directs them to the best appointment option.

Suggested answer: “Does earlier or later in the week work better for you? Earlier? Great, do mornings or afternoons work better for you? Mornings? We have openings next week Tuesday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.”
Redirect: “Which time works best for you on Tuesday?”

“When is your first available emergency appointment?”
Be prepared for urgent appointments by having two emergency slots available each day. If potential patients are in serious pain, allowing them to come in on the same day could easily result in loyal patients and future referrals. People always remember being helped in times of need. Instead of losing potential revenue, always be ready to help.

Suggested answer: “Are you experiencing a lot of pain? We do have an appointment available this morning at 10 a.m.”
Redirect: “Can I put you down for 10 a.m. with Dr. Smith?”

“How long will the appointment take?”
Although it’s easy to tell patients an appointment will take one hour, new patients are likely more concerned with what to expect during their first visit. This question provides an opportunity for you to prepare patients and build trust, as well as highlight what makes your office unique. Set clear expectations on the initial call to make your patients feel comfortable and confident in your practice.

Suggested answer: “Be sure to arrive 15 minutes early. Our address is 1234 Thomas Lane. We have a free parking lot right out front. The check-in process takes around five minutes—be sure to have your driver’s license and insurance card with you. We have free coffee and a play area in the waiting room. Once our team calls you back, you’ll take quick X-rays, followed by a professional cleaning. Dr. Smith will then provide an in-depth checkup. The process normally takes about an hour.”
Redirect: “What’s a good cellphone number to reach you at, so we can send a text message reminder a few days before your appointment?”

“How much do you charge for [blank]?”
The infamous price quote! Simply giving the full price range over the phone may satisfy price shoppers, but most often will not lead to a booked appointment. Furthermore, most patients won’t hear a price range—they’ll hear the highest number. Stay in control of the conversation by discussing the uniqueness of every patient, stating the low end of the price range when necessary, and moving the conversation forward.

Suggested answer: “Every crown and every tooth is different, so we’d have to see you first to provide an accurate price. Most crowns start at around $800.”
Redirect: “Did a dentist say you needed a crown? I have consults open with Dr. Smith tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Do either of those times work for you to come in?”

Practice makes perfect
Preparation is key when it comes to arming your team with the right answers to common questions. By listening to your team’s calls and providing consistent feedback, you’re able to proactively spot potential problems and work through the best possible solutions.
Sit down with your team at least once a week and play call recordings from the past few days. Ask your team what was done well and what could have been done better, as well as offer suggestions to expertly address tough questions.
Have your staff members pair up and walk through roleplays to practice their newly learned word tracks. Ensure your team is confident in using such skills in conversation with your patients.
Successful calls can’t happen without preparation. It’s extremely important to look over frequently asked questions and formulate answers that guide new patients to an appointment. People spend money with businesses they trust. Prepare for common inquiries to gain the confidence and business of new patients calling your practice.

1. Percent of Adults Who Visited the Dentist or Dental Clinic within the Past Year. (2016). The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved from,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D
2. Tenton-Albott, S. (2018, October 11). How Many Dentists Are There in the United States? Retrieved from
3. Wall, T. & Guay A. (2016). The Per-Patient Cost of Dental Care, 2013: A Look Under the Hood. American Dental Association. Retrieved from

Author Bio
Author Corey Johnson is a senior account executive at Call Box. Doctors and owners call him to increase their bottom line through enhancing the patient experience over the phone and converting more opportunities. Johnson earned an MBA from the University of Delaware and graduated from the University of North Carolina, where he studied how the power of data can affect organizational change.
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