Dental case acceptance is something that can plummet when a dentist chooses to focus on a specialized area. The practice is typically offering a more complex service at a higher price and time investment to the patient. They are also competing for a smaller pool of patients as well. When a dentist is struggling with case acceptance, it is often because they're focused entirely on the patient side of the relationship and not the consumer one. Every treatment is an investment, and to drive case acceptance, you also can demonstrate value to that consumer, aka, your patient.

To drive case acceptance, you can demonstrate value to the customer
To drive case acceptance, you can demonstrate value to the customer.

6 Ways to Drive Dental Case Acceptance by Defining Value

It can be easy to overlook the sales side of dentistry when you are trying to provide patients with care they need. However, those patients still view themselves as consumers. They are looking for value. Specifically, they want the best cost, the best product, and the best service. Translating that to dental services means displaying those three attributes during the very first patient exam.

Providing the best product and service is obvious to most dental care providers. It is about creating that concierge experience where the patient feels catered to the moment they walk through the door. From a welcoming reception to personalized care during their visit, the emphasis is on making the patient feel not just addressed, but truly valued.

Where most dentists stumble is on cost. Providing the best cost is not about engaging in a race to the bottom on price point. Value in dentistry is best defined by Dr. L.D. Pankey, a restorative dentistry pioneer and educator.

“A fair fee is the sum of money for which a dentist can perform their best service, of which they are capable, and the patient will pay with gratitude and appreciation..”

Patients will pay the fair fee if they value the treatment you're recommending. That value is built not just by that first exam but by the overall experience. You must build a comprehensive and supportive environment that goes beyond the actual procedure. This includes transparent communication, a comfortable atmosphere, and personalized care, ensuring that the patient feels not only satisfied with the service but appreciates the overall journey. Here are six steps that will drive value and improve dental care acceptance.

  1. Define and follow up on expectations.

  2. Project an organized atmosphere.

  3. Make your practice flow patient centric.

  4. Set a conversational tone.

  5. Gather details to guide treatment planning.

  6. Guide the patient through an EFSB exam.

#1. Define and follow up on expectations

Establishing patient expectations starts before the first appointment for a more personalized experience. Effective care delivery requires recognizing specific patient needs. The initial interaction, beginning with questions like "How can we best help you at your first appointment?" shifts focus to the patient's desires.

Understanding their goals before suggesting treatment tailors care to their requirements. This patient-centered mindset should continue to the end of the initial phone call, asking, "Is there anything else you want us to know before your first visit?" This proactive approach ensures the dental team is prepared to meet expectations from the beginning.

#2. Project an organized atmosphere

First impressions are lasting impressions and that applies to your reception station as well. A cluttered space with packages and paperwork stacked up will give the appearance of a disorganized office.

Neat reception stations and a well-organized environment convey professionalism and care. Greet each patient by name, and always be ready to address their inquiries. Recognizing new patients can be simple – if someone is unfamiliar, a friendly, "You must be X," sets a welcoming tone. Personalizing interactions contributes to the overall positive impression, fostering a comfortable and organized setting for a seamless dental visit.

#3. Make your practice flow patient-centric

Most dental practice flow is centered on efficiency. It is expeditious to filter patients to hygiene first where basic issues can be evaluated. Then, a dentist may come in for an exam to do a quick review for more serious issues and treatment recommendations.

The problem with that is that it does not build a relationship with the patient. The dentist may be able to give a quick diagnosis and treatment plan in five minutes, but to the patient, that’s a major investment that's been recommended with little contact. The patient is not convinced of the value of treatment.

While it's not possible for every practice, it's often beneficial to take a dentist-consult first approach. The patient receives face time either in a chair or in a consultation room to go over their expectations and discuss why treatment options are recommended.

Alternatively, offices can set aside additional time for explanations. A dentist may give a shorter exam and then recommend the patient come back for a specific consultation where all the treatment recommendations will be explained to them in detail. This keeps the practice flow efficient while allowing a greater focus on patient care.

#4. Set a conversational tone

In the last section, we discussed having an initial meeting with the dentists in an actual consultation room. Many patients who need extensive work done are in this position due to a fear of the dentist. Keeping them away from intimidating-looking instruments and equipment can set a more conversational tone.

If the consultation must occur in the exam room, then put away dental instruments and move equipment until it's treatment time. Make sure they are upright in the exam chair for a face-to-face conversation about treatment. The focus should be on creating a conversational atmosphere where they feel at ease asking questions. This approach will also differentiate your practice from others where less facetime is spent with the dentist.

#5. Gather details to guide treatment planning

During the initial patient interview, it is important to gather the information that X-rays and exams might miss. Some good questions to ask include:

  • How can we best help you at your appointment today? Reiterating expectations regularly helps to keep value defined and focused.

  • Do you have pain now, or have you in the past? A patient's pain levels can change from the time they make their appointment. They may not be in acute pain now but may have had pain in the past that needs to be addressed as a priority.

  • When was your last dental visit/teeth cleaning? It's best to ask this question before any examination happens because it is viewed very differently if it is asked while the patient is being examined. The question can come across as accusatory if it is asked when treatment occurs. The interview is a better time to review this.

  • Is there anything else you want me to know? This is a final opportunity to reiterate expectations and define value.

#6. Guide the patient through an EFSB exam

Breaking down the patient's condition into the aesthetics, function, structure, and biology (EFSB) protocol is a straightforward way to explain the patient's treatment options. Using clear imaging that allows the patients to view the current state of their teeth, the dentist can help narrow down how their oral health contributes to each of these categories.

This comprehensive approach provides a visual roadmap for the patient, illustrating not only the current state of their dental well-being but also highlighting the interconnected nature of aesthetics, function, structure, and biology. Understanding these aspects empowers the patient to make informed decisions about their treatment plan.

How Patient Experiences Drive Value from All Angles

The new patient exam is instrumental in fostering understanding between the dentist and the patient regarding their oral health conditions. This, in turn, improves dental case acceptance rates. By providing clear guidance at every step, the dentist demonstrates a commitment to delivering the best possible product and service tailored to the patient's specific needs. This approach is crucial not only for ensuring optimal care but also for transparently addressing costs, allowing the patient to comprehend the value of their investment. These strategies represent just a few avenues for enhancing dental case acceptance.

Helping a patient understand their oral health conditions during the new patient exam improves case acceptance
Helping a patient understand their oral health conditions during the new patient exam improves case acceptance.

In a recent webinar titled "Creating Value During the New Patient Examination" by Dr. Curt Ringhofer, hosted by Spear, a deeper exploration of value drivers in dental practices is presented. The webinar offers detailed examples of EFSB protocols applied across various cases. For more insights, you can watch the video here.

If you are searching for an in-person learning experience on this topic, The Art of Treatment Planning, is the seminar for you.