By Michelle Kratt
Even though dental implants as we know them today have been around longer than some of us have been alive, there are still so many people who are uneducated about them and unaware of how dental implants can benefit people not only by “filling a hole” in their mouth, but also filling a hole in their life.
You will have patients who come in to your practice not having any idea what dental implants are or what they are used for, and still other patients will come in to the practice knowing more about dental implants than your team does. Either way, you need to know how to present a case to these patients.
If you have a patient who needs to have a root canal or a tooth extracted, most times they think they will have to have a three-unit bridge or wear a partial denture. They are completely unaware that dental implants are an option. It is up to the doctor and team to educate patients about the benefits and risks of dental implants, as well as financial and oral hygiene obligations. Just like all procedures, there will be patients who want to know everything from what the implant is made of to how painful the procedure will be, how long the healing process is, and how well trained the doctor and team are. These are the patients who take every brochure you have available and go home to talk to everyone from their spouse to their co-workers and neighbors. You probably will have to put a lot of effort into “selling” this case to these patients, and you may also have to see them for consultations more than once.
If the doctor and hygienist are the only ones on your team who can speak to patients about implants, you’re in trouble. Your entire team should be educated so they can answer any questions the patient may have about implants. The assistant should be able to build on what the doctor has told the patient by comfortably speaking about the procedure, describing what is on models, showing before-and-after photos, etc., while the doctor is out of the operatory. This is a very crucial step in the case presentation process. We all know — no matter what the procedure is — that once the doctor leaves the operatory, the patient looks at the assistant and asks him or her to repeat everything the doctor said in laymen’s terms.
Your administrative team should know at least the basics about implants and the procedure, because most of the time patients will ask them questions while scheduling the appointment or when they call the office. If your entire team comes across to the patient as well versed in the procedures performed within the practice, the patient will have much more confidence and be willing to schedule the appointment than in a practice where only a few people know what is going on and everyone else is running around trying to find someone who knows about implants.
If your patient has been referred to by his or her general dentist or the case is complex and the general dentist doesn’t feel comfortable doing it, chances are the general dentist has already explained some of the procedure and answered some questions. The patient may also have done some research not only on dental implants, but also on the doctor and the practice itself. The most difficult part of selling this case will probably be finances. If you have someone who knows the procedure and is comfortable discussing the financial options available within your practice, this type of patient should be a “slam dunk” to schedule.
I know of a patient who was partially edentulous on the maxilla. She had been to several dentists but did not feel they offered her the best treatment options or were qualified to perform the procedure. She had researched implant procedures on the Internet and spoke with friends who have had implants placed. Then, she researched the dentists in the area who performed the type of procedure she needed. She said it took her months to finally decide on a practice, and the practice she chose was almost two hours away from her. When she scheduled her consultation appointment, she already knew what had to be done, she just wanted to make sure the dentist and practice would be a good match for her. After a brief consultation, she was brought to see the implant/financial coordinator, and since the practice offered several attractive financial options, the case was “sold” and the appointments were scheduled. This patient is now a walking advertisement for the practice; she has told everyone what a wonderful experience she had.
Now we all know that there are very few patients who will be as easy as the patient described above, but case presentation for implants really doesn’t have to be difficult. If everyone on the team is properly trained and the patient is properly educated, it should be a pretty simple process. If your team is not already properly trained, it is definitely worth investing in them so it becomes second nature for them to discuss implants, and this, in turn, increases office production.
With 20 years of dental experience, Michelle Kratt recently made the shift to dental practice management consulting. She is a fellow of the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) and is currently working on her fellowship with the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries (ADIA). Michelle is also the founder and president of NEDAT Study Club for dental administrative team members, and was recently recognized by AADOM for her efforts. She can be reached at [email protected].
By Michelle Kratt