Do you find yourself feeling like a sleazy salesperson when you speak to your patients about their treatment options? Do you feel frustrated when patients deny treatment that you know they need to achieve optimal health?
You are not alone and there is a solution that will get your patients empowered and you doing more of what you love most …helping your patients.
When you put this solution into practice, you and your team can better serve your patients, increase case acceptance and build your practice to help even more patients.
The solution to increasing case acceptance in your patients includes 2 key components: empowering your patients with dental health education to better accept treatment and understanding the decision making process that your patients go through from the minute they step into your office until they exit the doors of your practice.
Most patients want to be their healthiest selves, they just don’t understand the direct and powerful connection between oral health and whole body wellness. In fact, most patients walk into their appointment just wanting to maintain a pretty smile and are unaware of the potential health risks they may encounter when rejecting treatment.
When dentists take the time to educate patients on how dental care improves their overall health, teach them that more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations and inform them on the potential health risks of denying treatments, patients become more empowered around their health and thereby more inspired to accept treatment.
Most patients want to be their healthiest selves, they just don’t understand the direct and powerful connection between oral health and whole body wellness.
We’ve recently published the following statistics that relates poor dental health with potential medical conditions throughout the body. Try sharing these statistics with your friends and families and see the look of surprise on their faces. Watch the impact it makes and don’t be surprised if they soon book their next dental appointment with you Now imagine how your patients will react to this time of education!
• Gum disease increases the risk of head and neck cancer (American Academy for Oral Systemic Health).
• Tooth loss and gum disease increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (Mayo Clinic).
• Bacteria in your mouth can travel to other parts of your body in your bloodstream and can cause heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke (American Academy for Oral Systemic Health).
• Gum disease increases pancreatic and kidney cancer risk by 62% (Harvard).
• Diabetes and bleeding gums increases your risk of premature death by 400 – 700 percent (American Academy for Oral Systemic Health).
• 93% of people with gum disease are at risk for diabetes (AAOSH).
• Pregnant women with gum disease have only a 1 in 7 chance of giving birth to a healthy child of normal size (AAOSH).
• Research has found an association between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis (American Academy of Family Physicians).
• People who have gum disease are twice as likely to die from heart disease and three times as likely to die from stroke (Mayo Clinic).
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Now that we’ve reviewed the critical importance in patient education, let’s examine the treatment decision making process that every patient encounters.
It is important to understand that how a patient moves through the treatment decision-making process empowers dental practices to address the patient’s resistance with education, support and compassion. When we can identify where a patient experiences resistance we can better identify how we can inform and support them.
This process includes five key steps that every patient moves through during a visit to the dentist. Each step is an opportunity for the patient to say “Yes” to treatment. When patients say “No”, we can explore if additional resources and guidance is needed for the patient to become a “Yes.” We step away from the sleazy salesperson model and into the space of service for our patients with the focus being their optimal health.
True treatment acceptance is when the patient is accepting all recommended, needed care and not just the minimum — this should be around 67%. The remaining will need to be guided to accept care by using the five-step decision path process below.
Step 1:identify the Patient’s Personal Motivator
The first step is identifying what is motivating a patient to consider dental care. Identifying their why for dental care allows them to feel heard and creates rapport between you and the patient.
To identify the personal motivator, ask the patient: “What do you want for your oral health and smile?” And “why?”
Once you know the patient’s personal motivator, you can help them with their decision-making process and get the first “Yes” by asking: “If we can deliver the dentistry you need to achieve your goal of (insert personal motivator), would you want to invest time in your oral health and schedule care?”
Step 2:Use a Healthy Mouth Baseline
It’s important to give patients an understanding of what oral health means to them in terms of their overall health, the appearance of their optimal teeth and gums and the care required to achieve health. We call this a Healthy Mouth Baseline.
A Healthy Mouth Baseline is what you and your team believe every single patient deserves to have for their oral health. The Healthy Mouth Baseline needs to be communicated to all patients along with the “why” you, as a dental professional, are committed to helping patients achieve this goal.
For example: “Mrs. Jones, our team has what we call a Healthy Mouth Baseline, which is the care needed to ensure your optimal teeth and gums are in good health, without disease. As your dental and health advocate, I believe every one of my patients needs to be healthy. Do you agree?”
Step 3:Let Patients Know if they Have Problems
It’s important to be very clear with patients what their oral health “problems” are. If they don’t believe they have dental issues, then they won’t be motivated to accept treatment as a solution. The most effective way to communicate your concerns to the patient is with visual aids like intraoral photos that provide proof and allows the patient to see what’s going on in their mouths.
For example: “Mrs. Jones, do you see this cracked tooth here? This is going to be a problem for you if you delay taking care of it. It will eventually break, which may result in discomfort and additional cost. Is this something you want to take care of now to avoid the inevitable issues when it breaks?”
Step 4:The trust transfer
In this fourth step, the patient is transferred between the treatment discussion and recommendation to the front office team. It’s important to reiterate for the patient:
• The doctor’s treatment recommendation
• Their desire for care
For example: “Mrs. Jones, this is Mary, our financial coordinator. Mary, Mrs. Jones told me she is interested in dentistry that enables her to (personal motivator here).” “Mary, we also discussed our practice’s Healthy Mouth Baseline and Mrs. Jones agreed that she deserves to be healthy and disease free.” “Doctor has shown Mrs. Jones the cracked tooth that is concerning him and Mrs. Jones agreed she would like to move forward with Doctor’s recommendation. Did I communicate everything accurately to Mary, Mrs. Jones?”
Step 5:Fit treatment into the Patient’s lifestyle
The previous steps are designed to help the patient answer the question, “Should I get this care?” Along the path, they have been presented with the information needed to clearly understand why they should accept recommended treatment. They have been met with compassion and information that has created rapport and trust.
The last step is to answer the question, “Can I get this care?” and dissolve remaining resistance – usually time and cost – that may prevent them from committing to needed dentistry.
For example: “Mrs. Jones, we’ve agreed to move forward with treating your cracked tooth. I want to make sure we’re clear about your financial responsibilities and payment solutions and get your time with the Doctor scheduled. The good news is you have insurance that will contribute to your care. The total cost of the dentistry is $XXX. With what we expect your insurance to contribute, you have an out-of-pocket investment of about $XXX. When patients have an out-of-pocket investment, I always let them know we have a financing solution should they prefer to pay over time. So, Mrs. Jones, if we have a payment solution that works for you and can provide a convenient appointment, can we get you on the schedule right now?”
Taking time to connect, provide education, and apply the decision making process takes you out of the salesy model while empowering the patient to be a YES to their dental health. This keeps you and your team in a space to do what you do best…. help your patients and grow your practice.