I'll go home and think about it

Aug. 1, 2002
Did you ever present a treatment plan to a patient who really needed the dentistry, understood the process, and seemed excited about the treatment? Then, after you presented the fee, he or she winced and said, "I need to go home and think about it."

Paul Homoly, DDS

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"Auto."
"Auto who?"
"Auto know why patients need to go home and think about it!"

Did you ever present a treatment plan to a patient who really needed the dentistry, understood the process, and seemed excited about the treatment? Then, after you presented the fee, he or she winced and said, "I need to go home and think about it."

Of course you've had this experience! We all have. Ever wonder what the patient is thinking about? Is he thinking about the occlusion, the anterior guidance, and the dentinal tubules? I guarantee you he's not. He's thinking about how your recommendations fit into his life. It's the most important factor in case acceptance and it's the one area that you know the least about. Does something seem wrong with this picture?

Dentistry must fit

Fit is how the dental treatment blends in with the current events and/or transitions in your patients' lives. The more things going on in our patients' lives, the more our treatment recommendations must accommodate (fit into) the current events of their lives. Only in rare instances, such as acute dental emergencies, will our recommendations supercede the priorities of our patients.

Your practice is a small portion of the patient's entire experience. To expect our recommendations to dominate their current-event landscape is unrealistic. A better approach is to find a way to fit your treatment into their lives. It's easier, smarter, and more patient-oriented to look for ways to fit your treatment into their current event agendas. To do so, you must understand what their agendas are.

Understand by asking

Understand your patients agenda by asking. Fit issues are critical to the acceptance of complete dentistry. Get patients to talk about what's going on in their lives now. Focus on significant transitions they're in such as job changes, relocations, home remodeling, weddings, kids in college, divorces, changes in their health, major expenses, or stressors in their lives. Talk about their hobbies, vacations, recreational activities. Find out what's going on with their families and friends.

We're not looking for idle chit-chat here. We're looking for significant events in their lives into which we must fit our treatment recommendations.

For example, if you know the patient has just moved to the area, you can assume that he or she has all sorts of hassles related to expenses and inconvenience. Putting "fit" into your treatment recommendations sounds like this: "I know you've just moved into your new house, so when its makes sense for your budget, we can improve the appearance of your front teeth by applying a new enamel-like layer."

If your patient has a job with specific work patterns (travel, busy seasons, important projects on dead- lines, etc.), putting "fit" into your treatment discussion sounds like this: "I know this is your busy season at your dress shop, so when it's convenient for you, we can replace your back teeth so you can brush them right in your mouth."

If your patients have special hobbies, vacations, traditions, holidays, putting "fit" into treatment recommendations might sound like this: "I know you're coaching your son's Little League team this year, so when you can find the time, we can improve your bite by rebuilding your back teeth."

You might think that the concept of fit only encourages patients to postpone treatment by reminding them of their current obligations. Patients don't need reminding! Being smart about "fit" puts us on the "same side of the chair" with them. When patients realize that you're putting their dental care in context with the big picture in their lives, you'll earn their loyalty and respect for life. What dentistry doesn't get done this year, you'll do next year. Think long term and you'll prosper!

Dr. Paul Homoly coaches dental teams to implement reconstructive dentistry through his continuing-education workshops, private consulting, and seminars. This column is an excerpt from his new book, Isn't It Wonderful When Patients Say Yes? - Case Acceptance for Complete Dentistry. Dr. Homoly can be reached at (704) 342-4900 or via email at [email protected]. Visit his Web site at www.paulhomoly.com.

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