Now is a great time to be in dentistry for dentists and especially the entire dental team! Dentistry can be extremely rewarding for today’s dental practice. It takes everyone being on the same page in philosophy, dental expertise (in all areas) and attitudes. So many exciting challenges come in to play when presenting complicated, comprehensive and cosmetic dental cases to our patients. Listed below is a suggested action plan to achieve optimal results.
• Perform a comprehensive exam designed to enhance the overall experience of the new patient.
• Design customized treatment plan.
• Consultations that are informative and include the patient in the decision-making process.
• Schedule designer days to deliver optimal care to our patients
• Having a dental team in place that allows them to deliver the quality dental treatment that our patients expect.
The patient is our most important concern when diagnosing, planning and presenting dental treatment. We must first identify the patient’s decision-making capabilities and address their concerns with care and compassion. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Therefore, the patient’s first visit to your practice needs to wow them. It starts with that first phone call to your office. The dental team member that coordinates the first visit for the new patient is key to that new patient’s first experience in your office. Ask thought provoking questions of the new patient to determine their “dental IQ”:
• How did you hear about our office (internal marketing tool)?
• What concerns are you having at this time / What prompted you to make this phone call?
• How do you feel about dentistry?
• Please let me tell you about our philosophy in this practice
• Dr. XYZ takes great care with our patients to ensure they have all their concerns addressed by completing a comprehensive dental examination, taking any necessary x-rays, study models and photographs to assess your dental needs. Together, you and the doctor will design a treatment plan that best addresses your dental needs and concerns.
I also recommend a dental “smile evaluation” be offered to patients on their first visit to assess the patient’s dental IQ and needs. Some questions may include the following
• Tell me about your teeth
• Tell me about your past dental experience
• What do you especially like or dislike about coming to the dentist?
• If you could change anything about your teeth or mouth, what would it be?
• Tell me about your parents’ dental history
• What prompted you to call our office for an appointment?
Communication plays an important role in providing excellent dental care to our patients. This involves the entire dental team. Although the first impression is usually with the front office administrator, the clinical team, assistant, hygienist and doctor play an integral part in the patient’s acceptance of their dental treatment. A specific plan needs to be designed to give the patient optimal care. How you introduce the patient to dental care relies on your dental team’s ability to make the patient feel comfortable with their decisions. When a patient expresses concern or asks a question, each team member needs to be able to refer to the one of the “experts” in the office while at the same time helping the patient to be well cared for. This method builds a bridge between the clinical and front office and creates trust and confidence between the patient and dental team.
A well-defined treatment plan can also be a great tool for case acceptance. There are many excellent treatment plans available on most computer systems although, they tend to be very technical. My advice is to design a “user friendly” treatment plan that encompasses all aspects of the patient’s dental care. A sample treatment plan is shown below.
A custom designed treatment plan allows the Dentist and dental team to be more specific regarding customizing treatment recommendations for the patient. It allows the patient the opportunity to completely understand what is being proposed to them. First, you need to set goals for your patient’s treatment. Your initial goal should always be to provide “lifelong oral health and comfort”. Then list in order of priority the patient’s treatment needs, i.e. preventive and periodontal treatment, restorative treatment, replacement of missing teeth and finally, cosmetic treatment. It is also important to remember quadrant dentistry. The more you offer quadrant dentistry for your patients; the better it is on them and the dental practice. Finally, I recommend listing an estimated total (including all possible scenarios) and a disclaimer at the bottom of the treatment plan explaining that all fees quoted will be valid for 90 days from date of consult and that actual treatment rendered may change.
Scheduling your patient for their comprehensive or cosmetic dentistry can present a challenge for even the best dental teams. A “designer treatment day” should be planned in your dental practice to allow for optimal dentistry to be rendered. This requires a choreographed sequence of events for quadrant dentistry to be performed with the least amount of stress in your day. First, set your annual goal, divide by number of days in office to treat patients and then determine production per hour from that. Then, determine what time of day doctor likes to do major comprehensive or cosmetic dentistry and design your schedule appropriately. You will want to determine a dollar goal to produce each day in order to achieve this. The more you consistently adhere to the “designer” schedule, the lower the stress in your practice for your dental team and your patients. Successful practices must consider both the patient and the dental team when setting out to achieve the optimal result for the patient.
Finally, be sure to utilize effective verbal skills. Don’t ask yes/no questions and always offer at least two options. This helps the patient feel as though they are in the driver’s seat while allowing the practice to be in the driver’s seat. Actively listen to your patient’s questions and concerns to best answer their questions. Offer viable solutions designed to assist the patient in accepting the best dental treatment options.
Conclusion: All aspects for achieving the exciting, esthetic oriented dental practice begins with a plan. That plan must include how you communicate with the patients and dental teams. Having a customer service-oriented practice in place takes planning, polish and positive attitudes. Everyone needs to take ownership in his or her practice and be excited about the possibilities.