Are you a dentist struggling to get your patients to accept the treatments you recommend? You’re not alone. It can be frustrating when you know you can help your patients, but they don’t seem to see it the same way.
What is Case Acceptance?
My definition of case acceptance is when a patient has scheduled, shown up, and received and paid for the planned treatment. Some patients may just nod their heads during the consultation, seem interested, and say yes but do not schedule or show up for their planned treatment. That doesn’t count, and trust me, I’ve been there, and it is very discouraging.
Let’s discuss some ways dentists can improve their treatment plan case acceptance.
Use of Images
Investing in a good intraoral camera is a must, as it can help capture essential information like a crack or gum recession. I will take an intra-oral picture, put it on the monitor in front of the patient, and blow up the picture ten times the size. I will point out areas of decay, fracture lines, leaking old fillings, etc. Patients will often say, “Wow, I have never seen my teeth like that”, or “Wow, that is gross” and point to the crack or decay. It gives the patient more motivation to move forward with treatment when they can visibly see what’s actually going on. Explaining dentistry can be difficult, but it helps to have a few snapshots of the area to help the patient conceptualize what you are trying to explain.
The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is so true, but a video is worth ten thousand. I use short educational videos of the procedure to provide a clearer understanding of the process. Teamworxdental.com has an amazing library of videos. They are quick, Informative, and persuasive. I will often use them to explain such procedures as crown preps, implant placement, sleep apnea devices, root canals, class two fillings, or clear aligner processes. Most questions are answered in the video, and it also helps from you having to go through the exhausting process of verbally painting a picture for the patient. Videos are super helpful if there is a language barrier as well.
How Do You Talk to a Patient in Verbiage They Can Understand?
A vital component of every dental practice is all-important patient-doctor communication. Unfortunately, many doctors tend to use too much scientific or advanced dental terminology while speaking, making it challenging for patients to comprehend the suggested treatment plan.
Instead, they should use straightforward language that patients may easily understand. I like to pretend that I am speaking to my seven-year-old son. Speak so a child can understand. Keep it simple by focusing on the patient’s issue and how you can fix it. Point to the above mentioned techniques of showing the intraoral images you have taken, educational videos, or models. You don’t have to prove how smart you are. Don’t use terms like “Sir, you have a craze-line on the distal buccal undermined cusp of #19”. Instead, say, “Bob, you have an enormous old silver filling that you probably had put in there when you were a kid, and now it is cracking and needs a crown to protect it. Otherwise, it may break in a way where the tooth can’t be saved and would have to be pulled. Let’s get you scheduled for a crown before that happens”. With this explanation, the patient will likely schedule and move forward with the recommended treatment.
Patients also commonly want to know three things: 1. how much the procedure will cost, 2. how long it will take, and 3. whether it will hurt. Giving patients clear responses to these questions can empower them to make knowledgeable choices about their treatment plan and boost their confidence in carrying out the suggested course of action.
The more dentists practice these conversations and answers to questions, the better they will get with case acceptance. It’s like a Broadway actor getting ready for the big show. The more rehearsing you get, the more chance you will crush that performance.
Find your champions.
Often patients will seek the advice of one of your staff members before moving forward with treatment. For example, you leave the room, and they will ask the hygienist, assistant, or administrator about the recommended treatment.
It helps that all staff members may need to understand each type of treatment thoroughly. However, having one or two champion team members knowledgeable in specific treatments is extremely helpful in increasing case acceptance. For example, you can have an implant or clear aligner coordinator handling these cases. Ensure you educate the staff on how you want treatments and risks explained to the patient. Even take them to continue education courses with you.
Treating the staff and their families is a great way to increase case acceptance. I treat my staff and their immediate family members at a significantly discounted rate. It is worth the time and energy, and they will greatly appreciate your work. In addition, they can serve as the most valuable advocates for the practice by sharing their experience with the patient, answering questions, and providing honest feedback about the practitioner’s services. This strategy can build genuine trust, become a network of advocates, and encourage patients to proceed with treatment.
How Does Data Apply in Case Acceptance?
Dental practices should have a solid pulse on the practice’s case acceptance numbers. The only way to do this accurately is through data. This requires using key performance indicators (KPIs) to understand the practice’s performance.
Case acceptance and treatment acceptance KPIs per provider and procedure offer essential insights into the office’s strengths and weaknesses. You will find out what procedures you are not closing and what team members need help increasing case acceptance. This should be approached as a learning experience to help the practice improve and not as a criticism. KPIs are there to assist and not to discipline. Dental professionals can discover areas that need improvement and take action by analyzing this data.
About the Author
Dr. Eric Block DMD, CAGS, FICOI, FICD, FAADS
Dr. Eric Block is a full-time practicing dentist in Acton, Massachusetts, husband, and father of two kids. He is known as The Stress-Free Dentist and hosts the Stress-Free Dentist Podcast.