12.24.10 Issue #459 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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I Only Want My Teeth Cleaned!
By Nancy Caudill, Senior Consultant McKenzie Management

I think that every dentist should put this “wish” somewhere near the top of their “wish list” - “I wish that all my patients will accept and pay for ideal dentistry!”

Wouldn’t that be great? You go to dental school to become a dentist for several reasons, not in any specific order:

  • Be your own boss
  • Own your own business
  • Make an above average income
  • Help people

How can you help people when they dictate to you what they want? It is time for a reality check. 99.5% of dental patients don’t die as a result of refusing the perfect dental care. OK - there is the concern of certain bacterium that enters the bloodstream from neglected periodontal or other dental needs. But in general, dental treatment is not like “life or death” surgeries that patients undergo to treat medical issues.

80/20 Rule
This is nothing new to you. 80% of your treatment is performed on 20% of your patients.  Does this mean that the 80% that don’t accept treatment are “bad” patients? Absolutely not. We already know that the goal for your Hygiene Department is to retain 90% of your active patient base. This means that if you run your recall report for the next 12 months for patients with and without appointments, an average of 90% of those patients should come back or they are replaced with new patients. How do you handle those patients that don’t accept “ideal” treatment? Let’s start with the patients that need periodontal therapy.

Failure to accept Periodontal Therapy
It is recognized that I am treading on philosophical territory. My purpose is to give you a different version of the “I just want my teeth cleaned” response.

Here is the story:

Mr. Jones calls to make his “New Patient” appointment. It goes like this: “Hello, this is Bob Jones. Are you taking new patients?” Now, we have no idea why patients ask us this because we are ALWAYS taking new patients! “I would like to make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned.” Did you hear him say that he wanted to make an appointment for Scaling and Root Planing?  No.

A few days later (and I hope it is a few days opposed to weeks) Mr. Jones is greeted by your wonderful hygienist. She conducts her very thorough periodontal charting and “pre-assesses” that Mr. Jones MAY have Type II periodontal disease, with the understanding that you will make the diagnosis. Your hygienist continues to educate the patient about his potential disease and how it can be treated. “I understand,” Mr. Jones responds, “but I only want my teeth cleaned”.

Now what? Where do you go from here? Does she “clean” his teeth after your confirmed diagnosis, or dismiss him because he didn’t accept the treatment plan? And to make matters worse, he has several areas of decay that will require crowns.

Give the Patient What They Want
Bear with me… Mr. Jones is referred to you by a wonderful patient. Mr. Jones is not demanding or argumentative. He simply is expressing what he wants - he wants his teeth cleaned. The most important first step to a long relationship with any patient is to listen to what they have to say and attempt to accommodate them. Let’s play out this conversation from a marketing standpoint.  The point being to develop a rapport with Mr. Jones in hopes of “winning him over” as well as making his friend look good for referring him to you.

Your hygienist Suzie, in her expert manner, expresses her concern with Mr. Jones regarding his request to “clean his teeth.” In an effort to give him what he wants, she acknowledges his wishes with a caveat - “Mr. Jones, I understand your reluctance and I am willing to compromise with you as long as you promise me that you at least acknowledge that you have gum disease, but have elected not to treat it today. Is that a deal? In that case, I will do my best to “clean” the areas of your teeth above the gum that I can reach. With your permission, we will re-visit this when you come back next time, okay?” Mr. Jones is a happy patient. His wife insisted that he get his teeth cleaned… and he did!

And, he also returned for the 3 crowns that he needed. Suzie made a note in his clinical record that Type II periodontal disease was diagnosed, but the patient elected not to continue with SPRs and only wanted his teeth cleaned.

What Happens If You Don’t?
Let’s play this scenario again with a different approach. Mr. Jones is informed by you that he has periodontal disease and he indicates that he only wants his teeth cleaned.  Suzie discusses with the patient the consequences of not accepting periodontal treatment and Mr. Jones still declines. Suzie indicates that she can’t just “clean his teeth” - she can only treat his disease. He leaves the office without scheduling an appointment for the crowns, or the SRPs. He has nothing good to say to his friend about you, because all he wanted was his teeth cleaned and you wouldn’t do it.

Getting to “Yes”
Very often patients need to hear their diagnosis more than once before they say yes.  Patients need crowns more often than fillings, but you are willing to compromise and do the filling. Consider the same situation for your new or existing patients with periodontal disease. With proper education, a signed refusal form acknowledging that they know they have the disease but prefer not to be treated, some day in the future, they may say yes!  Keep them in your practice and give them the opportunity to say yes to you!

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Consulting Coaching Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email info@mckenziemgmt.com.

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