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  • by: Janet Hagerman, RDH, BS
  • 5 min read

Getting Dental Patients to Say Yes

When it comes to supporting presented treatment, the entire dental team can and should be committed to helping, but that requires understanding the emotional space of the patient at the time.

When patients think dental treatment will impact them too much financially or are reluctant to schedule treatment, we need to “dig down and help our patients line up their values with what we’re trying to do to help them,” says Janet Hagerman, author of Selling Dentistry, Ethically, Elegantly, Effectively


There are touch points along the patient experience where everyone can support the patient making a good decision. You don't have to be a sales-oriented person. You can be quiet and demure. "As a matter of fact, some of the best salespeople are low key," says Hagerman. 


A Discovery Process

“In school we are trained to be very clinical. We are a very technical, clinical, logical, left brain type of industry. That's all we do all day,” says Hagerman. “So when we're presenting treatment, we typically tell our patients what they need in clinical terms.” 

Because buying is an emotional decision, Hagerman says we need to meet patients where they are, and how we help them make those emotional decisions requires a discovery process.

“We typically sell from the head clinically. So we need to be selling from the heart, from the emotional side of this,” says Hagerman, who urges team members to ask patients open-ended questions to learn what their values are. 

If you ask “What is most important to you about your teeth,”  patients may say they want them to look nice or that they want to be able to eat again, that they want them to last or that they want treatment for a known or suspected condition. This will vary according to the patient’s history and current circumstances, so for a given patient what is most important at any visit may be different than the previous visit. When you are presenting treatment, focus on what is most important to the patient here and now.


Two Examples

An Appearance Conscious Patient: If the dentist has previously diagnosed the need for a crown and an appearance conscious patient is in for her hygiene appointment, the hygienist might say. “Nancy, I know you are going on a cruise in November. You are a beautiful woman. I’ve done everything I can to give you a sparkling beautiful smile, but that one tooth could be made to look just like the rest of your smile before your vacation. Dr. Patel does beautiful work, and I think you deserve a beautiful smile. When the tooth is crowned, it is going to be beautiful. And by the way, it’s going to be more functional and stronger.”

The focus is placed on the cosmetic reason to do the restoration, because that’s where Nancy is now. “If she wants more clinical information, she will ask a question that gives me permission to go into that  clinical conversation,” says Hagerman.

A Patient Who Wants Teeth to Last: Having that same conversation with a hygiene patient who is more concerned about preserving his teeth, the hygienist might say, “John, you need a strong foundation for eating, and this one tooth is weak now. When it is covered with a crown it will be strong and last longer. By the way, Dr. Patel does beautiful work, so in addition to being strong, it’s going to look great, too. The main thing, though, is that you told me you want your teeth to last your lifetime, and this will make the tooth much stronger. I know you want to save that tooth while you still can.”

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