The importance of personalizing treatment presentations to dental patients

One of the most common challenges faced in the dental practice is ensuring that patients accept treatment recommendations. It is an enormous area of opportunity for most practices. If you were to add up the amount of treatment that is recommended and declined in a month, you might be surprised at the amount of potential revenue missed.

Most clinicians have attended CE courses on improving case acceptance, and have had at least some training on the subject … so why isn't it working? We think we are doing a good job and are frustrated when our conversational skills don't result in the patient accepting our recommendations. When this happens, many of us point to the price of the treatment as the reason the patient refused.

Fortunately, and maybe surprisingly, this is usually not the case. Each of us has the ability to gain treatment acceptance simply by changing the focus of our recommendations. The disconnect happens when we focus on the treatment, rather than the patient in our treatment presentation.

A common example is when a hygienist, in an effort to convince an adult patient to accept in office fluoride, says, "I recommend fluoride for everyone. It's very effective." At face value, that may not sound wrong. However, patients are not interested in the treatment; they are interested in themselves. The hygienist would do better to say, "Mr. Jones, you need fluoride to protect the areas of recession you have. You are using a soft toothbrush, which is a great start. You had some root cavities in the past, and fluoride can help prevent that from happening again." The verbiage difference is incredibly simple, yet profound. Mr. Jones is much more likely to accept the personalized recommendation.

Another example: "Mrs. Smith, periodontal disease can cause tooth loss. It is important we perform a scaling and root planing for you." To make the treatment relevant to Mrs. Smith, say instead, "Mrs. Smith, you have lost bone around the tooth that anchors your bridge. We would hate to see you lose that tooth and the investment of the bridge. Performing a scaling and root planing is the best way to prevent that."

Personalizing treatment does not take extra time. Rather, it saves time. We've all had those new patients with whom we spend a lot of time, and then they leave the practice and never return. When treatment recommendations are relevant to patients, they feel empowered rather than pinned down.

Most folks agree that their time and money are precious resources. We don't easily part with either unless we feel it is for something we need and want. As dental professionals, we know the care we are recommending is important and will improve our patients’ oral and overall health. Help people understand how treatment will benefit them personally, and your case acceptance will increase!