What, or who, is our true competition in dentistry? Is it the dentist down the street or the dentists in your town? Would you consider that your true competition is the many facets of your patients’ lives demanding their time, attention and money? If a patient is in pain, or is actively seeking dental treatment, dentistry may be included in the demands. The truth is it’s likely low on the list. It’s our job as dental professionals to change this.
How Do We Do This?
The answer begins with the patient’s first contact with your practice and ends long after the treatment is completed. Every positive experience moves them close to dental treatment, and every negative experience moves them further away. A high rate of treatment acceptance is achievable for any dental practice when the entire team is committed.
What They Expect…and What They Get
Most patients expect their dental hygiene appointment to be routine and predictable. Hearing that they have an unexpected diagnosis can be unnerving and stressful. For many reasons. Will it start hurting? Will it be expensive to fix? Will my insurance cover it? Will I need to take time off work? What’s the best way to fix it? How long will the repair last? Should I just leave it and hope for the best? Will my spouse be upset that this could cost money? How could I let this happen? Why didn’t I take better care of my teeth? Tonight I’m going to start flossing. Is that sugar-free drink really sugar-free? I’m an adult, I shouldn’t have let this happen.
While this list may seem dramatic presented in this format, the truth is that one or many of these questions are running through a patient’s mind. I know this because many of these questions have been asked of me after my patient has received their diagnosis.
Fiction versus Reality
The reality is it takes time to make a decision. There are many steps involved. It’s fictional for us to expect that we start a patient at 9am and by 10am they have made a clear and well thought out decision to proceed with dental treatment. If there is minor decay diagnosed, the patient has had fillings before, they have room on their insurance (or they’re not concerned about their insurance), they trust us AND their last experience was a good one…they will likely schedule the appointment. If any of these factors are not in play, they might not.
Remember, this was a patient arriving to their routine dental hygiene appointment expecting nothing out of the ordinary. Now they’ve heard differently. What happens next? It can be complicated. They must accept that a problem exists, they must be open to fixing the problem, and they must be open to accepting our recommendation for fixing the problem. Some patients may go through this process quickly, others may not.
What Can We Do?
I’ve been an RDH for over 30 years and I learned something very important early in my career, It is my job to help a patient choose dentistry designed to improve their health, it’s not my job to teach them how to do the dentistry. I have listened to countless conversations over the years where the most well intended dentist, in an effort to fully inform their patient, is teaching them how to do a crown prep. We get too technical and forget that all the patient wants to hear is ‘which option will provide me the most benefit.’
We must focus on what is important to the patient and tailor our recommendations accordingly. This topic alone could fill pages.
We must honour where they are starting from. Embarrassed, nervous, confused and overwhelmed are typical starting places for our patients. Remember that doing a #46O is easy for you…’easy’ might not be the word a patient who has never had local anesthetic would use!
We must use our technology, experience and education to show our patients what is existing and what is possible. The word ‘show’ is important to pay attention to. Less talking and more showing leads to greater treatment acceptance every time.
A patient may feel ready to make a decision about treatment shortly after learning they have a condition requiring repair. Some will not be ready. They may have a spouse to check in with, a dental plan to investigate, some research to do…their process is their process. It is our job to come alongside and make the process easier. Follow up is critical. If we don’t stay in touch with our patients after their appointment the long list of demands takes over and their dental treatment falls farther down the list. The good news is that by following a proven formula for case acceptance you can achieve a successful practice with healthy patients.
Stay tuned to learn more about the process of effective case presentations, including the role of each team member, the language to use and the flow of the appointment.
Our team of Dental Consultants, at Tayden Consulting Inc.,
specialize in providing, hands-on, on-site coaching on how to create the optimal experience for your patients.
Contact us today for a free consultation!
We look forward to meeting you.