Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 02 Happy Dental Patient 1

Is your dental team reluctant to discuss treatment with patients? This could be costing you money and hurting patient care

Feb. 18, 2016
Some dental practices are reluctant to tell patients they need certain types of treatment. This is not okay. Not only do patients suffer, but so does your reputation and your bottom line. Patients come to you to be treated.

I work with practices all over the country, and there’s one common theme. The dentist wants the practice to do more dentistry more efficiently. Period. The conversation may start with morale, communication, or that one nagging staff member, but it always comes down to more efficient production, and that’s a good thing. If we diagnose disease, it’s our duty to do everything we can to make sure our patients get the care they deserve.

So why is it that so many support staff and dentists alike are reluctant to tell people they have disease? There may be two reasons.

1) We are compassionate human beings, and nobody wants to hear bad news. That creates a confrontation. Everything was all good and now we’re telling someone something not so good.

2) We prejudge people and we decide what they can afford and what they can’t afford and that is simply wrong. We think we’re doing them a favor by not treating something “because it’s expensive and they probably can’t afford it.” But I will submit to you we are mistreating a patient by not treating the patient.

I was in an office recently where one of the hygienists told me, “We don’t like to use the C word during NP visits.” This means they don’t want to tell patients they need a crown for fear of scaring them off. I have overheard doctors talking about a “small little filling,” saying “We’ll catch it next time.” And here’s a classic. When the hygienist has just finished the 10th bloody prophy in a row on a longstanding patient with increasing pocket depth, the dentist says, “You know we might need to do some scaling and root planing next time if this doesn’t get better, so you might want to floss a little more.”

Here is another one I really hate. The financial coordinator says, “Well, you know you only have $200 left on your insurance.” What the heck does that have to do with the price of cumquats? We’re here to treat patients, not their insurance!

Here are two things I want you to think of to get you out of that rut and help your patients get the care they deserve.

First of all, when patients cross the threshold and step into your office, they have charged you with the responsibility of taking care of their oral health care. It is not your place to decide how much somebody can afford or to minimize treatment because you don’t want to scare someone off. So what do you plan to do next time? Tell them all about it, as if somehow six months have magically made it okay and safe to talk about the three crowns they need?

Secondly, and this is the point that will help you the most, it’s not your fault they have broken fillings, it’s not your fault they have fractured molars, and it’s not your fault they haven’t flossed in 10 years.

Instead of being reluctant to tell a patient about their disease, you should be absolutely proud that not only did you find the disease, but you should congratulate the patient for coming in so the disease could be caught before it got worse. They can now be treated in a fantastic dental practice—yours!

Dentists talk about cases they’ve done, treatment modalities, and more, but this is a business as well. You need to turn a profit to stay in business, and I’m not at all shy about profit. In fact, I’m a big fan. Think of it this way…if it’s right for the patient, it’s right for the practice…. if it’s right for the patient, it’s right for the practice; if it is right for the patient it is right for the practice…

Don’t worry about scaring someone off by telling them about their disease. Don’t let treatment “wait until next time.” Put yourself in the patient’s position. Would you want your physician to withhold bad news just because he or she doesn’t want to scare you off? That’s crazy! If it’s right for the patient, it’s right for the practice.

Do not be reluctant to discuss disease and treatment with your patients, all of your patients, both new and established. If patients receive the care they deserve, the practice will make the profit it deserves.

This article first appeared in DE's Expert Tips & Tricks. To receive enlightening and helpful practice management articles in this e-newsletter twice a month, visit

Stan Michalski III, DDS, practices in a multi-doctor, multi-location practice in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is an in-office coach, author, and speaker. Dr. Michalski is founder of Michalski Dental Coaching, and can be reached at [email protected].