How Do We Get More Patients To Accept Complex Treatment Plans?

The key to all of this lies in understanding the patient and what they want. People will find a way to pay for what they want (the key to your financial discussions.) Your case acceptance becomes a lot easier when you are talking to patients about what they want instead of talking to them about care they weren’t aware they were going to need and worse yet, care that they don’t want. People don’t want to be told what to do or forced to do something that they don’t want to do. So everything we do, is about helping them see that they are in the driver’s seat. The more control the patient has the more likely they are to accept care.

How do you have patients wanting dental care?

There are 4 keys to case acceptance.

1. Create an Emotional Connection.
2. Gather Data.
3. The Exam.

In the form of photographs, x-rays, and a cursory exam by the hygienist or dental assistant. My partner, Wendy Briggs, who is the best at teaching hygienists these skills, says her favorite thing to do is to take the pictures of what is happening in the mouth and blow them up on the big screen TV, and just start walking through what they see. They say that a picture says 1000 words and it’s completely true in dentistry.

Once you have the pictures, you want to have the patient hold the cavity detecting laser (so they can see the readings) and explain what’s going to happen and what a normal reading should be. This way, the patient is in control and as the numbers come up, if there is decay, they are already aware and most will ask how to fix it immediately.

Wendy goes through the data gathering process at our LIVE Double Your Production Workshop, the scripting, and how the hygienists can start the case presentation conversation so that when the doctor enters the room, the patient is already ready to accept the treatment. The key to this is the data gathering step. (Another explanation of the data gathering steps is in detail in our book The Ultimate Guide to Doubling and Tripling Your Dental Practice Production.)

After all the data gathering, it’s finally time for us to come into the room and perform the exam – what most of us think is the most important part of this entire process – WRONG. 90% of your case acceptance comes from gathering the data and creating an emotional connection. By the time you make it to the actual exam, it’s your treatment plan to lose.

The key to successful treatment presentations is to answer all of the questions that are in the patient’s mind before you start talking about any solutions. Most doctors jump straight to the solutions thus no longer making this about what the patient wants.

Before you talk solutions, the patient needs to understand what will happen in they do nothing (because that’s always a choice.) Most dental disease is asymptomatic. There are very few people that come in aware that they have with early-stage periodontal disease. There are very few people with small areas of decay that know they have decay – because there are no symptoms. It’s our job to find ways to show them that they have a condition that they can’t see or feel.

This is why the pictures visuals become so important – they allow us to show the patient what they can’t see. All of this needs to be discussed and understood by the patient before you ever talk about a solution and LONG before you ever talk about money.

Once you and the patient are on the same page – which is the data gathering and initial screening exam in hygiene are done well,the patient can be helped to understand the consequences of no treatment. this should only take you a minute or 2 – Now you can start your thorough exam and start talking about solutions and narrowing down the solutions that a patient wants.

Let’s say that your patient has missing teeth. We know that they can have a removable appliance, a fixed partial denture, or an implant. If you start walking through every option with the patient – you will confuse them. And confused minds don’t buy. Confused patients have to think about it, have to ask their spouse about it. So Understanding what the patient wants prior to discussing options can allow you to create clarity instead of confusion. Nnarrowing down the treatment options as much as you can to what the patient wants is impactful.

4. Getting the Patient to Say "Yes" to the treatment planned.

Getting patients to accept care: You have walked them through their solutions, you have narrowed the choices and you know what the patient wants. The patient feels heard, they feel cared for. The understand what the condition they have is, they understand what will happen if they don’t do the treatment. They understand the treatment options. In reality, they have already decided on an option at this point – all that is left is to talk about the money. You have set yourself, and the patient, for success when getting to point of talking finances.

For your bread-n-butter patients, your non-referred patient – what I have seen work best is to talk in terms of neighborhoods. “Your mouth has 4 neighborhoods (not quadrants – because patients don’t understand quadrants, that is a dental terminology) and we can do this as quickly or as slowly as you need to. I don’t want to solve your dental problem and create a financial problem for you. So if we are going to do this a bit at a time, let’s start in this neighborhood (which contains their chief complaint.) You don’t try and make financial arrangements on everything, you don’t try and schedule everything. You just try and get them on and booked for that first neighborhood.

Too many people are overwhelmed by the total cost. They’re overwhelmed by the complexity of the appointments and the number of appointments. And if you just eliminate that complexity, make it simple, one option that the patient wants. “We will start with this area and we’ll do it in as few visits as it can possibly by done.”

That’s what will get patient acceptance.

About the Author


Dr. John Meis is the founder of The Team Training Institute. An innovator in practice management, marketing, leadership, and team development who at his peak was producing in the top 1% of dentists in the United States. He multiplied his 1 practice into 12 and has been a partner in more than 180 dental practices, playing a key role, visiting, coaching and innovating on the ground in these practices. After extensively studying the most successful dentists, dental practices, and business owners he developed the “Productive Practice Mindset” from which the core principles of the Team Training Institute were created. The Productive Practice Mindset consists of 11 key habits and attitudes which differentiate them from less successful practices. Get a free copy of his book to double your production - the right way!