3 key factors in case acceptance

Case acceptance is a hot topic in our industry-how to get the patient to want to spend money on dentistry. I have heard so many different presenters teach various different ways to accomplish this.

Case acceptance is a hot topic in our industry-how to get the patient to want to spend money on dentistry. I have heard so many different presenters teach various different ways to accomplish this.

I’ve heard all the suggestions: sit next to them and be their friend; send home a PowerPoint to the patient’s spouse with pictures of their teeth as a motivator; use certain words that will ignite a desire in the patient to get the treatment done ... and many more. Wouldn’t our lives as health care professionals be so much easier if we could figure out a sure-fire way to get our patients to want what they need? 

Related reading: How patients decide to accept, delay or decline care

Think about it. People always find ways to afford what they want. They stand in line to get the latest Apple product. They save up to take that Disney vacation. They get interest-free financing to buy that new big-screen TV. Imagine if patients prioritized dentistry in the same way-if they could leave our offices feeling excited and happy about what they had purchased!  

Just as much as the next office manager, dental professional, presenter and dental trainer, I would love to find the one foolproof way to get patients to want dentistry and to happily shell out hard-earned cash for their treatment plans. I would love for people to be excited about what we do and how we can help them. It would be amazing if the public would change their opinion about going to the dentist and getting work done to save their teeth.

Related reading: 7 behavioral cues that lead to increased treatment acceptance

However, that is not going to happen. At least not in my lifetime. No one is ever going to feel excited and happy about having a piece of balloon material clasped down over their mouth, getting drills and needles in their mouth, smelling their tooth as it gets grinded away, and drooling down their numb cheek. It just won’t happen. And the fact that after all that, you then have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the privilege of undergoing the procedure-that is just the icing on the cake.

So, when it comes to case acceptance, there are three key factors that we need to help our patients push through, in order to get to them to that place of wanting what they need.

Continue to the next page to see the top three things to remember...



First, we need to be persistent. We can’t tell the patient just one time what they need and then rely on them to follow through on it. They have to be fully convinced of the importance and feel psychologically ready to act on it. Most people are just not going to be ready right away. Like me, they may not take the first available opportunity to get the work done-but if we are gently persistent about the need for it to happen, usually they will schedule it.

Related reading: 4 steps to improved treatment acceptance

Second, be sure to clearly explain why they need the work. When a person is considering what you are saying, they are weighing it with other things that they want to have. Let’s say a patient needs a bridge, but they really have been considering a new big-screen TV, and getting the dental work done next week means they’ll have to wait a few more weeks or months for the TV. You may have to help them differentiate between a TV they will use an hour or two a day for relaxation and their teeth that they will use every day, all day, to chew, eat, smile and talk. It’s your job to spell that out for the patient and make them feel that their dental health has to be a priority.

Third, it is important to recognize that patients are not educated in dentistry the way you and your team are. They don’t really comprehend the outcome of not taking care of their teeth until, unfortunately, it’s too late and they are in pain or lose a tooth. You need to make sure your patients understand what is likely to happen to their teeth without the treatment you recommend. You’ll have to explain in a way they understand, not in dental talk. The number one way to help patients understand where they are headed without care is by showing them a picture. Give them a visual example of what happened to another person’s tooth with a similar issue that went untreated. Then they’ll be able to see the potential harm for their tooth and hopefully choose a better outcome for themselves. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Trending article: 4 reasons patients don't go forward with treatment

We as dental professionals need to accept that patients simply will not ever want to buy our treatment plans... but they are often willing to invest in their dental health when they understand the alternatives. As healthcare providers, we are here to provide our patients with what they need. As long as we ask our patients what they “want” to do, we are not going to help very many people. But if we change our wording and our attitude about educating patients, we will help our patients live longer and live a better life.