"That sounds great, doc, but how much will it cost?"

If you're like a lot of dentists this is among your least favorite questions. And it's not because you are not sensitive to the economic realities of good dental care; if anything, it is probably because you are too sensitive to them.

You want to give your patients the best care you are capable of providing and you want your diagnosis to be pure; however, you are also aware that often what you are proposing represents a significant investment from the patient's standpoint.

So when the topic of money comes up it is understandable that many practitioners get uncomfortable. The problem arises when that discomfort becomes obvious.

One of the most successful dentists I know, who has an outstanding acceptance rate, has a simple message he gives to young dentists when it comes to answering the cost question: "Don't be afraid to own your value."

Don't apologize for how much great dentistry costs. Don't hang your head and skirt around the question. Don't start your response with "I'm sorry to say but it would cost about ..." or "I'm afraid it's going to be ..." His advice is to communicate the options clearly and with confidence and when the patient has chosen their level of care and asks about price, look them in the eye and in a calm, direct manner say, "That will cost ..." and then go on to list the advantages they will see from the results. Make no apologies and don't indicate that it should be considered anything out of the ordinary. If you convey unflinching confidence in your value when presenting fees, he says, patients will pick up on it and feel confident in your value too.

That doesn't mean you don't try to help patients find a way to afford the care you provide (and as I have written previously, there are ways to do that). The lesson here is that if you want patients to truly appreciate the level of care they are receiving for their money, you can't be afraid to make it clear that you know you are worth it. As this dentist has proved, you can do it in a way that is humble and authentic and that actually encourages greater case acceptance.


Commenter's Profile Image Barry Polansky
November 12th, 2013
Self-belief---key to many problems.
Commenter's Profile Image Natalie Jackson
January 4th, 2014
You hear patients complain about the costs of dentistry so much that you almost start to believe it (speaking for myself), but then we all know that taking care of the problem at whatever stage it's in currently is always less than if it is not done. $0 actually costs more than $1000, $2000, $5000, $10,000, or whatever the cost of that problem currently costs. A $1000 or so crown is less than a $4000 implant and a $4000 implant is less than $6000 for ridge augmentation plus implant, and an implant bridge plus several crowns is less than the cost of a hybrid to get to the extreme end. No matter what dental need it will always get more expensive if put off, so if we are afraid to talk money now it'll get that much harder later. I'm trying to keep that in my mind to make it easier to talk money to patients. Hygienists have a tough time telling hygiene patients the cost of SRP, and I think that a good way for them to be more at ease is to realize how much perio treatment (beyond initial therapy costs) or the loss of a tooth can cost a patient.