Maybe it’s a patient you have been seeing for years for routine maintenance and hygiene checks who now has developed a condition that requires immediate attention. Maybe you have been to a particularly enlightening course or workshop that has opened your eyes to treatment opportunities you had not seen – or were not confident enough to tackle – until now. Maybe it is a new patient who has spent years seeing another dentist they trusted and is now hearing you tell them, for the first time, that their current condition is less than ideal.

no treatment please!In each case the patient response is going to be the same: “What happened?” All they know is that six months ago – or even a few minutes ago, in their mind – everything was fine. Naturally, the first question that comes to mind when they hear your diagnosis and treatment presentation is, “Do I really need it?”

This is why you need to go into the conversation with a working knowledge of the patient's profile in mind:

What kind of dentistry have they had in the past – has it been only routine treatment up until now?

How often do they visit – are they on a regular schedule, or are they the “only-when-it-hurts” kind of patient?

What is their “Dental I.Q.” – what do they know and how do they feel about dentistry?

If this is a new patient, how did they come in? Were they referred, or did they just find you in the neighborhood? Did they ask for “just a cleaning” when they first called?

Knowing these things about the patient – understanding their history and their expectations – will help you tailor your approach to treatment presentation, addressing their preconceptions up front so that the patient doesn’t feel blindsided by your recommendations.

There are, of course, a number of other common questions that go along with “Do I really need it?” on the list of things patients will ask when confronted with an unexpected diagnosis – questions such as, “How much will it cost?”, “Will my insurance cover it?”, and “Can I take some time to think about it?”

These are questions that are going to come up again and again, so they are questions that every dentist should be a master at answering with confidence. Coming up, I’m going to give my thoughts on what I think are the best approaches to responding to them. If you have any other patient questions that come up often and that you would like me to give a suggested response to, please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

(Click this link for more dental practice management articles by Imtiaz Manji.)