The magic question

Jan. 1, 2010
Many dental teams attempt to attain comprehensive case acceptance in one huge leap at one point in time — the treatment conference.

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: magic question, “Would you like to explore the possibility of ____?” Dr. Nate Booth, team meeting, people's desires, comprehensive case acceptance.

Many dental teams attempt to attain comprehensive case acceptance in one huge leap at one point in time — the treatment conference. Instead, the team should help patients make decisions through several small steps over time. One multipurpose tool that will make this process easier is the magic question, “Would you like to explore the possibility of _____?”

Here are three examples of the magic question in action:

1 Darren phones to schedule a new patient exam. He mentions that two of his friends had implants placed and restored in your office. This is the perfect opening for your front desk person to ask, “Do you have any missing teeth?” If Darren says, “Yes,” your person can follow up with, “Would you like to explore the possibility of having those teeth replaced with implants?” When Darren answers affirmatively, your person can say, “Excellent. I'll make sure we schedule enough time to do a comprehensive exam and talk to you about tooth replacement possibilities. Does that sound okay?”2 A patient mentions to your clinical assistant that she doesn't like the appearance of her front teeth. Your well–trained and alert assistant says, “Mrs. Lopez, there are several ways we help patients improve their smiles. Sometimes whitening is all that's needed. Other times we do veneers. Take a look at these before–and–after pictures of people who had problems similar to yours. Aren't the results great? Would you like to explore the possibility of improving your smile? We can talk with the doctor when she comes in.”3 At a recare visit, your hygienist notices that Mr. Jones' tooth No. 3 has a fractured amalgam. She also notices that teeth Nos. 2 and 4 are restored with large, broken–down amalgams. She says, “Mr. Jones, take a look on the monitor. Notice that filling with the big crack. I'm sure the doctor will recommend that it be replaced as soon as possible with a tooth–colored restoration. Do you see the huge fillings on the teeth in front of and behind the cracked tooth? They've been in your mouth a long time and are crumbling around the edges. There is also a crack on the cheek side of the farthest back tooth. If you have those three teeth restored one at a time, it will take six visits, you'll have to take off work six times, and you'll have to have your mouth numbed six times. If we do all three at once, it will only take two visits. Would you like to explore the possibility of doing all three at once? We can talk to the doctor about it when he comes in.”

Do you see the power in the magic question? When you use it, you're not asking people to accept dental care. You're only asking them to take one small step toward acceptance. In addition, many dental team members don't like “selling” dentistry by directly asking people if they want to accept care. It seems too pushy. “Would you like to explore the possibility of _____?” is a soft approach that still moves people toward case acceptance.

Team meeting

Make copies of this article and have all team members read it before your next meeting. Briefly review the article at the meeting. As a group, identify the times your office asks the “Would you like to explore the possibility of _____?” question. Then write scripts for each situation and have people role play their scripts.

The magic question is an excellent way to identify people's desires. Use it in your office on a daily basis. Your patients will comfortably move toward the care they desire and deserve.

Dr. Nate Booth is a speaker, consultant, and author who provides dentists with the information and systems they need to thrive in their dental practices. He does presentations to dental groups around the world and is a practice management advisor for ChaseHealthAdvance. Dr. Booth is the creator of the in–office, DVD–based program, The “Yes” System: How to Make It Easy for People to Accept Comprehensive Dentistry. For more information, go to, or call (800) 917–0008.

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