161404230 © Gloria Rosazza | Dreamstime.com
Untitled Design 86 6373ec2b36375

How to talk to patients about financing dental work—in any economy

Nov. 18, 2022
No one looks forward to talking about payment, but it can be an especially difficult topic during a down economy. OM Beverly Wilburn has some tips for making it easier on everyone.

I’ve managed quite a few different types of practices and have lived through several economic cycles. I’ve found financial conversations that end in an appointment tend to progress in three distinct steps. I call it the trifecta: value, cost, and payment solutions.

Patients must value the care

It all begins with helping a patient understand their condition and offering a solution that will improve their life. This creates value. For example, you are not offering a filling. Instead, you are offering to eliminate decay so the patient can keep the tooth and eat without pain. You are a catalyst to enabling them to enjoy the benefits of health. 

Related reading: 

Patients must understand the cost

Cost conversations should start when patients have a financial responsibility. In a 100% fee-for-service practice, the conversation should take place during the initial phone call, because there’s an expectation that the patient will be making some type of payment the day of their appointment. If the practice is insurance-based, money may not be the first conversation that needs to happen. In that structure, the priority is to get the patient in the door and the cost conversation happens once the team has had an opportunity to verify benefits.

Patients must be able to get on the schedule

Patients may value the care and understand the cost and insurance benefits, but if they aren’t offered a means to pay for treatment, they may not be able to get from point A to B. Whether the cost is solely the patient’s responsibility or there is a gap between the cost and insurance contribution, it’s important to empower patients to choose the option that works best for them. Here’s how we present the options:

“Mrs. Jones, when we apply your benefits to the cost of care as we discussed, you have a patient payment of $1,000 due today. How would you like to pay?” 

We then wait silently and let the patient originate how they want to handle payment. Some just pull out a credit card. Others ask for more options. Depending upon the specific circumstances, we may offer to split the amount into two or three payments. If that doesn’t work for either our practice or the patient, we recommend financing.

We have accepted the CareCredit credit card for quite a while. It is a tried-and-true company that has, like me, been through many economic cycles and has stayed the course. Right now, patients are even more appreciative of being able to take advantage of promotional financing.

When you communicate the value of the solution you provide, educate patients on the cost and role of dental benefits, and then help them get from point A to point B in a way that works for their financial situation, inflation and the economy may have little impact on your schedule and production.

Editor's note: Care Credit is among DentistryIQ's financial supporters.

About the Author

Beverly Wilburn, MAADOM

Beverly Wilburn, MAADOM, is the office manager of Karl A. Smith, DDS, LLC Periodontics and Implants in Alexandria, Virginia, and Waldorf, Maryland. In addition to managing a multi-location specialty practice full time, she offers part-time comprehensive consulting services for periodontists and case acceptance and marketing services for other dental specialists and multi-specialty groups. She also consults for several dental malpractice attorneys. She is a lifetime member of AADOM, a member of three local AADOM chapters in the Washington, DC, metro area, and serves as the executive administrator for the Virginia Society of Periodontists.