October 20, 2016

Expert Advice for Dentists to Increase Care Acceptance

There are only 3 ways to increase revenue in your dental practice: 1) attract more new patients, 2) increase your current patients’ average value, and 3) increase your care acceptance. But the latter of the three is one of the most effective ways to grow your practice! Here’s what the experts recommend to increase your care acceptance rate.

Now, there’s a lot of great expert advice out there on that ocean of information we call the World Wide Web. But finding it all, determining its credibility, reading it all, sifting out the golden nuggets of wisdom in pages of content . . . well, it’s more than time-consuming, it’s flat out overwhelming. And we would know, because we took the time to do it for you. Right here, in one place, we have all the golden nuggets you’re looking for to create a clear path to increasing your care acceptance. Almost every quality source we researched recommended these three tips:

#1: Create the Right First Impression

Lisa C. Wadsworth, RDH, a certified professional/personal development coach, wrote in her article, Skills and Techniques for Getting to YES:

“Research shows that people decide who to purchase health-care services, support, and personal items from based on their perception of the health-care professional's attentiveness and truthfulness during the first minute of communication. The old adage ‘There is never a second chance for a first impression’ is true for case presentation and subsequent acceptance.”

So what does Lisa recommend? Upping your communication skills with these 5 tips:

Build A Solid Cotherapist Relationship With Your Hygienist

“Treatment presentations involve the entire team and rely on all team members delivering a consistent message.” Plus, your hygienist plays a vital role as a “respected confidant.” (Dr. Wendy Briggs, the founder of The Team Training Institute, supports the need of a consistent message in her article, 3 Words To Revolutionize Your Case Acceptance, as she explains that “There needs to be a common language that everyone in your practice uses when presenting treatment to a patient. This includes the hygienist who may be broaching the conversation, the assistant whom the patient is asking questions, the doctor who is presenting the treatment, the financial coordinator, all the way through the front desk who may be scheduling the next appointment or fielding a question on the phone.”)

Learn to Listen for What Will Drive Your Patients to Say Yes

  • “The rules are simple — pay complete attention to the patient, sit or stand facing the patient (same height), make full eye contact, and have no distractions from outside the operatory, ever.”
  • “What you glean from listening to your patient will provide the information for a presentation that will validate the importance of your patient's perspective, and ultimately their compliance.”

Rehearse open-Ended Questions

“Open-ended questions are questions constructed to elicit more than a yes or no response. . . it’s our professional way of gaining insight into what will encourage patients to accept treatment that we know will help them.”

Study Triggers and Concerns

  • Emotional Triggers: “Triggers to act — Emotional triggers are beliefs that naturally move patients to accept treatment. Examples of triggers are esthetics, function, avoiding pain, peer pressure, and, let's not forget, guilt!”
  • “Triggers are easily dealt with because they move patients to act/accept. Your case presentation doesn’t have to be creative. Presentations should always be truthful, however, dealing with patients who are motivated to start is easier than dealing with patients filled with concern.”
  • Emotional Concerns: “Concerns to stop — Concerns or thought processes that stop or slow down acceptance are pain, fear, or frustration.”
  • When faced with these concerns, “listen and learn” why the patient is postponing treatment, “keep asking questions” to find out if the patient’s concern is the “true concern,” and then “give enough information to quell patient’s imagination, but don’t explain the procedure in graphic detail . . . cause undue concern” and confuse the patient. (And as Dr. Wendy Briggs explained in her article, 3 Words To Revolutionize Your Case Acceptance, “CONFUSED PATIENTS DON’T ACCEPT TREATMENT.”)

Present Multiple Treatment Options

  • “Provide more than one option for handling any situation. . . This will expedite a quick case acceptance.”

By upping your communication skills, you can make the RIGHT first impression and communicate your way into a deep, trusting connection with your patients.

#2: Keep Things Simple!

Dr. Wendy Briggs has over 25 years of experience as a Registered Dental Hygienist and has spent the last 15 years consulting with more than 3,718 dental practices in 12 countries, so she knows a thing or two about care acceptance. In her article, Explode Your Implant Case Acceptance, she has a golden nugget of wisdom that is universal for care acceptance: keep it simple!

She explained that the “old paradigm for Case Presentation was to educate, educate, educate the patient. . . when we use complicated and technical terminology to ‘educate’ a patient we end up driving them away.”

So what does Dr. Wendy recommend? A new paradigm.

Her numero uno rule to follow for this new paradigm is to simplify, simplify, simplify:

“Talk in terms your patients understand. Often it’s not what you say, but how you say it. In Case Acceptance, what THEY SEE is so much more important than what YOU SAY!” So use tools to simplify things, like the Diagnodent, or as Dr. Wendy calls it, the “Cavity Detecting Laser” and the intra-oral camera, so the patient can see for themselves. This creates urgency without you having to say anything. And as it’s been said since the beginning of time, “seeing is believing” — an old proverb that many dental experts would agree with.

In fact, Dr. Ara Nazarian, clinical consultant and creator of the DemoDent patient education model system, conducted a case study and reported the findings in his article, How to Increase Case Acceptance. He found that when it comes to getting patients to accept treatment:

“One of the most effective ways is to show the patient visually what is going on and then describe the condition and its effects using an anatomical model. Anatomical models allow the patient to visualize the tooth 3-dimensionally in a clear and concise manner. Once patients understand their condition, they value the importance of the treatment necessary to restore their mouth to proper function and health. In return, the dental provider can feel confident that he or she has completely educated and served the patient.”

But simple language and visuals aren’t the only way to keep it simple. In Dr. Wendy’s article, 3 Words To Revolutionize Your Case Acceptance, she provides what she calls “three magic words” to help keep things simple for the patient.

Mandatory - Elective - Cosmetic

By categorizing treatment into these three categories, “you can take that $12,000 treatment plan and break it into bite-size pieces so that the patient is in control and in a better emotional state to move forward with their treatment. . . When you use this formula you are setting the stage for long-term dental health and a long term partnership with your patients.”

But part of keeping it simple is knowing what to say, while the other half is knowing when to say nothing at all. Imtiaz Manji, an author for Spear Education, wrote in his article, One Simple Thing Not to Do to Increase Your Case Acceptance, “probably the most important time to be silent is right after presenting your proposed treatment plan.”


“Too many dentists often sabotage their own best interests—and their patients’—by trying too hard to be accommodating, and that means they give in to that natural human impulse to fill that silence. They start backpedaling, suggesting more affordable options, or ways to break up the treatment over time—all before the patient has even said a word. It makes so much more sense to wait, no matter how long it takes, to hear what the patient has to say FIRST. Give them time to process what you have told them. You will be surprised how often the answer is, eventually, ‘ok.’”

So keeping it simple means presenting the proposed treatment plan using simple language and visuals, then giving your patient time to respond FIRST, BEFORE you take any countermeasures.

#3: Never Forget to Bring Your Compassion to the Case Presentation

Kyle L. Summerford, BS, an independent dental consult, wrote in his article, Case Acceptance: Mastering the 'Art of Persuasion in Dentistry' by Mastering the Art of Compassion:

“This is an essential component to add to your case presentation. It will put the patient at ease and show care and consideration. Compassion stirs emotions, which generate action while at the same time allow the patient to feel that a friend is recommending this treatment.”

So what does Kyle recommend? These 5 simple ways to display compassion and increase your care acceptance:

“1. Be considerate

Listen to the patient; pay close attention to what the patient is saying by opening your ears and keeping eye contact. (This was emphasized earlier by Lisa C. Wadsworth).

2. Patient first

Be selfless and put yourself in the patient’s shoes; deliver the bad news and financials as if it were you on the other end.

3. Gentle, warm communication

During case presentation be positive and optimistic for the patient; reassure the patient that this is the right choice of moving forward with correcting the problem.

4. ‘I understand’

This strong verbal communication phrase shows empathy, which in turn generates trust and shows that you can relate to the patient’s emotions and situation.

5. Compliment

Warm compliments go a long way. Boost the patient’s ego; sometimes we all need a little ego boost.”

Dr. Roger P. Levin, DDS, a leading authority on dental practice management and marketing, would add to this “treat every patient as an individual.” In his article, 3 ways to increase dental case acceptance, he provides a simple solution to do this:

“Before you see a new patient, learn 10 personal things about this individual. Psychologists tell us that when you learn 10 personal things about people, you are moving from an impersonal relationship into a more meaningful, professional relationship. By referencing personal factors, you are individualizing the case presentation before it even begins. People feel a connection that leads to a higher sense of trust and value for the practice and the recommended treatment.”

When you add compassion to simple language, visuals, and great communication, you have a recipe to explode your care acceptance rate. But in order to know if you’re increasing your rate, you’ve first got to know how to track it.

Tracking Your Care Acceptance Rate

Maybe you’ve already got this one in the bag, but it’s safe to assume not everybody does. So just in case, I’ll quickly teach you how to track your care acceptance so you can monitor and improve your numbers.

It’s as simple as this:

How many patients accepted recommended treatment compared to how many cases you presented.

For example, if you have 5 out of 10 patients proceed with your ideal treatment plan, then your care acceptance rate is 50 percent.

Here’s the formula:

# of patients who accepted treatment ➗ # of cases presented ✖ 100 = Care Acceptance %

You may consider a case accepted when the treatment begins or when a payment has been made, whatever is most accurate for you.

Now take this expert advice and run with it! Your future profits are waiting.

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