Hypnodontist Column: Increasing Case Acceptance

Last month’s column introduced the concept of hypnodontics — simple language skills dental professionals can learn from hypnotherapists to influence a patient’s focus of attention and physical experience even without the formal induction of a “trance” state.

Jul 29th, 2014

By Dave Berman, C.Ht.

Last month’s column introduced the concept of hypnodontics — simple language skills dental professionals can learn from hypnotherapists to influence a patient’s focus of attention and physical experience even without the formal induction of a “trance” state.1

It would take an entire book to cover every application of these skills.2 The focus of this column will be limited to addressing the apprehensions and reservations that can interfere with case acceptance.

Of course, case acceptance is crucial to sustaining an ongoing relationship with a patient. The average patient spends between $20,000 and $31,341 on dentistry in their lifetime.3,4 And that means it is essential to keep them coming back to your practice.

Increasing case acceptance hinges on helping people feel comfortable saying “yes” to their next treatment. If the patient needs thousands of dollars of work over the course of many visits, it can feel overwhelming. Simplify.

One of the core concepts of hypnodontics is asking better questions. In this context, one of the best questions you can ask the patient is: “What’s important to you about _______?

For example, “What’s important to you about getting this crown?” Or, “What’s important to you about having straighter teeth?”

Instead of telling the patient what you believe the priority should be, ask!

The response you get empowers your ability to use the language of ethical influence.2 That means directing the patient toward what you know is in their best interest while utilizing their own values and belief system to guide your choice of words.

In hypnodontics, such flexibility is a paramount skill, valued above all others.

Once you have the answer to that first question, you can use a process called funneling that presents the patient with options.2 Suppose the person needing the crown says, “My cousin said it hurt a lot, but my sister said you have some ways to make me more comfortable.”

Now you know this is a person concerned about the physical experience of pain and comfort. This becomes the basis on which you choose the options you offer. A good response might be, “I understand it is important for you to be comfortable. So when you get that crown, would you rather have nitrous oxide or hypno-anesthesia?”

Notice that before giving the choices, this comment paces or acknowledges the patient’s priority. Pacing always comes before leading, or giving the suggested actions you want taken. Pacing and leading will be the subject of the next column in the Hypnodontist series.

Also notice between the pacing section of that comment, and the choices the patient is lead to consider, there is what’s called a presupposition: “when you get that crown.”

The patient has not yet agreed to get the crown but you are building in to the comment the assumption that she will because you are acknowledging her priority and giving her a choice about how to address it. Presuppositions will also be discussed in more detail in a future column.

Let’s take another example to show how this can be generalized. Imagine the patient wanting straighter teeth prioritizes how she’ll look in photos from her upcoming wedding. A good reply would be, “You’re going to make a beautiful bride. When you are seen in photos taken between now and your wedding, would you rather get the clear braces on the front of your teeth or the ones that go on the back side?”

Again, the concern has been paced, the case acceptance is presupposed, and the patient is lead to consider only choices that meet her criteria for what’s most important. The language pattern reflecting this approach can be summarized as:

“I acknowledge your priority (pacing), and when you (do this recommended treatment), would you rather ____ or ____?” (leading)

The best way to become fluent in the language of ethical influence is to practice. Use these techniques often and notice the successes you have with patients. Watch this space for more practical hypnodontic tips next month.

Dave Berman, C.Ht. practices hypnotherapy and hypnodontics in the San Diego area. For more information visit Hypnodontist.com or call 858-876-7930.


  1. Berman, Dave (2014). Hypnodontist: Because Words Matter. http://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2014/07/because-words-matter.html
  2. Acosta, Juan (2014). Hypnodontics – Ethical Influence: Language For Dental Professionals. San Bernardino, CA: Hypnodontist.com. http://bit.ly/hypnodonticsstore
  3. Dilatush, Mark (2010). New Patients, Value, Compliance, & Long Term Return. http://dentalpracticesolutions.com/blog/2010/02/01/new-patients-value-compliance-long-term-return
  4. Alemayehu, B. and Warner, K.E. (2004). The Lifetime Distribution of Health Care Costs. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361028

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