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Are you prepared when your patient says yes to treatment?

Sept. 22, 2023
When your patient accepts your dental treatment plan, do they really understand what’s involved? Here are some things to consider as you work to get you and your patient prepared for treatment.

It isn’t easy to build the practice of your dreams, but if I can, you can, too! Dentists are smart and capable—all it takes is motivation to do the work to make it happen. The greatest athletes are always the first at practice and the last to leave. Successful dentists are the same. It takes hard work, but if you can get through organic chemistry in dental school and that first alginate impression, you can do it.

Imagine this scenario. One of your patients just referred a new patient to your practice. He says, “I want nice, white teeth that I can chew well with, because I lost a couple due to fractured root canals. I want all my teeth to look the same because I hate my silver fillings. My spouse says do whatever it takes. I’d like to prepay for everything with our HSA account, because there’s money in it that needs to be used. I’m ready to start today.”

You present the treatment plan, and the patient says yes. You now have an amazing responsibility for this patient’s care. You are committed to restoring this patient back to health and function. The treatment will require time, effort, and money.

More from Dr. Hoos ... What does patient comfort mean?

Do you have the clinical skills you need? Is your lab partner able to provide excellent, timely restorations based on your accurate preps and impressions?

I have experienced all kinds of issues during complex cases—from weird-looking teeth to wrong screws for an implant case, wrong crowns with the right models, and the right crowns on the wrong models. Cases have been lost by FedEx or UPS; some have been late. We must be ready for every possibility, but let’s focus on the excitement about doing a full-mouth case with a patient who is on board.

Understand your patient

What happens when you’ve started to prep the crowns or veneers, and suddenly your patient says they don’t want to continue treatment? What about when you’re in the middle of an extraction, implant, or root canal? What is your obligation to the patient now? This can happen if the patient agrees to treatment, but doesn’t really understand what’s involved in the procedure, how much time it will take, and how much it will cost.

Years ago, a patient came to my office with her husband and said she was ready for treatment. I told her she needed 30 crowns (they cost $256 each at the time). I explained that I had never done that many crowns, so I would refer her to another dentist who could do the treatment. Her husband said, “Dr. Hoos, do you think you could do these 30 crowns for my wife with the proper planning and time?” Shocked, I said, “Yes, I can.” The husband replied, “OK, here’s your check for $12,000. Let’s get started. We trust you, and I don’t think you would say yes unless you could.”

In another case, I had repaired a physician’s denture several times and explained that he now needed implants. I said I was about to start implant training. The patient said, “I want to be your first patient, because you wouldn’t do the implants if you weren’t able to.”

The patient must have confidence in you, but you need to have confidence in yourself. Believe in yourself and keep up with your clinical training.

Making sure your patient is ready for treatment

In my practice, patients must ask for treatment three times. The first time is when the patient calls our office, agrees to an appointment, and then shows up on time. The second time is after they meet me and agree to give me the information I need to make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. The third time is when I go over the BRAN (benefits, risks, alternatives, and no treatment) and answer any questions.

The most important part is not how much treatment will cost, but how long it will take. These are my rules:

  1. Everything will be comfortable, and if it’s not, I need to know.
  2. All questions will be answered.
  3. Don’t be angry with me if lab work needs to be redone or repeated.

Last thing: talk with your lab partner.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

About the Author

Jeffrey C. Hoos, DMD

Jeffrey C. Hoos, DMD, a 1978 graduate of the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, started his private practice as a one-operatory walk-up and grew it to a four-doctor practice with 25 staff members. He lectures on innovative techniques that balance the art, science, and business of dentistry. He is one of the first general dentists to be Brånemark certified for implant placement, and his office has become a teaching center for restorative and implant dentistry. Contact him at [email protected].

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