Getting my patients to say Yes to dental implants

June 1, 2007
are many excellent techniques for marketing dental implants. The key is to be comfortable with your systems and to incorporate dialogues that can be used daily.

by Jo Ann Pulver

There are many excellent techniques for marketing dental implants. The key is to be comfortable with your systems and to incorporate dialogues that can be used daily. Practitioners pour over practice statistics in search of a way to grow their business by increasing profitability. Advice from dental consultants, and even product representatives, can be helpful, but can also be perceived by dentists as “the hard sell.” Recommendations from product representatives can seem self-serving at times. If this becomes an issue for the dentist, who loses? The patient. That patient may never have the opportunity to choose the highest quality of care because it wasn’t presented with confidence.

As a matter of routine, the issue is sidebarred when no clear strategy presents itself. Many practice owners believe they must choose between the lesser of two evils - invoke advice from industry representatives or accept the status quo. More often than not, the issue is tabled. Is this some postulate to which we must resign? Absolutely not. Tried and true, there is a better way.

For generations, research confirms that it is the buyer’s emotion that drives purchase power, not logic. People don’t necessarily buy what they need; they buy what they want. Studies indicate that patients buy on emotion 70 percent of the time. Only 30 percent of their decision is based on logic! Traditional case presentation in dentistry reverses these numbers. We need to focus more on the emotional side of treatment presentation.

A trust-based doctor/patient relationship must be established before any treatment recommendations are presented. The comprehensive “New Patient Experience” (L.D. Pankey) is an excellent example of this. We need to focus on creating a unique, personalized dental experience for each patient. Appealing to patients’ emotions can be accomplished by asking open-ended questions and actively listening.

Dentists who are committed to addressing the needs of their patients and who offer implants as the best long-term treatment option can achieve a great deal of personal and professional excellence.

According to Dr. Chuck DiFranco, a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and a practicing periodontist in Park Ridge, Ill., “Until a restorative dentist truly believes in the benefits of dental implants over other methods of replacing missing teeth, he or she cannot get to the next level in establishing an implant-based practice.

Implants, when they are the appropriate treatment choice, need to be presented as the first option with a concise and confident recommendation. Other alternatives must always be presented, but the patient will ultimately look to the restorative dentist’s recommendation as the best solution for his or her individualized treatment plan.”

A belief in the benefits of dental implants must be shared by the restorative dentist and the surgical specialist as they work together. Once a restorative dentist sees the benefits of dental implants over other treatment options, his or her implant practice will experience explosive growth. This growth is also an educational experience as the dentists educate themselves on exceptional treatment presentation techniques and patient dialogues.

Listed below is a series of open-ended questions and possible second questions to facilitate a semistructured initial interview process, particularly when the possibility of dental implants will be part of the treatment plan:

  1. What if anything would you like to change about your teeth or smile?
  2. Based on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate your current dental health? How do you feel about this?
  3. Have you lost teeth, or do you have teeth that appear to be loosening?
  4. How comfortable do you find your denture or removable partial? How do you manage this inconvenience?
  5. How has the loss of teeth affected your appearance, food choices, personal life, self-confidence, enjoyment of food, or oral health?
  6. Given the opportunity, what would you improve about your speech, appearance, comfort in chewing, or taste?
  7. Tell me how your current denture is functioning for you. Is this acceptable? If you could change it for the better, would you be interested in learning about how this could be done?
  8. As your doctor, my approach is to be conservative and look at treatment options with the greatest longevity and that are among the best statistically. How does this sound to you?

During this essential interview, the patient’s wants (or motivators) and his or her worries (or concerns) will naturally emerge in conversation. At this point, it is important to do two things:

  • Confirm what you have just heard using active listening skills and summarize the content from time to time.
  • Document the wants and worries in the patient’s record in a consistent place.

This information is invaluable when it comes to presenting your case and getting a more confirming “yes.”

Here is a sample script for the post initial interview prior to presenting dental treatment:

“Mrs. Jones, it has been great getting to know you today. I feel so much better prepared to proceed with the clinical portion of the exam today after spending this time talking. Your highest priority is not to lose any additional teeth and to make certain that any dentistry we do for you is going to have the greatest longevity. You mentioned that having dental procedures, especially injections, is one of your least favorite parts of the dental visit. I fully expect your experience will be entirely different from your past. Is there anything else you would like me to know before we begin your exam today?”

Once the clinical portion of the exam is completed and the appropriate treatment plans, including visual aids, are prepared, it is advisable to script some of the key verbal points that provide benefits to patients based on their personal wants and worries. Following are three common scenarios ...

Scenario I

If a patient is lamenting over the loss of perhaps one tooth, a suggested approach may include saying:

“Mr. Smith, bearing in mind how traumatizing the loss of your first bicuspid has been, and the fact that you vehemently do not want to lose any additional teeth, I am recommending that we replace your missing tooth with a single dental implant. Not only is it conservative and predictable, but most importantly for you, it will preserve adjacent tooth structure. How does this sound to you?”

Scenario II

If the patient is focused on esthetics and longevity in terms of his or her key desires, a sample script might be:

“Ms. Peters, I know how important it is to have a lovely, natural-looking smile. The best way to replace your upper missing tooth on the left is with a dental implant. It is truly state-of-the-art in dentistry and looks beautiful with its natural emergence from the gum line. In addition, while the bone grows in and around the titanium implant to create a very strong support, we will lighten your smile so that when the final crown is fabricated, it will match beautifully with your other teeth. What thoughts are you having as we discuss this approach?”

Scenario III

The patient presents with discomfort resulting from the movement of his or her denture and is disturbed by the inability to chew properly, thus eliminating many favorite foods from his or her diet. A sample case presentation may begin with:

“Mr. Simon, the best way to stabilize your denture is by placing four (five or six, if appropriate) dental implants underneath it. By doing this now, not only will we be able to virtually eliminate the soreness you currently experience, but you will also have increased chewing ability, allowing you once again to enjoy many, if not all, of your favorite foods. Let me show you how this could be done.”

Show the patient a model of an implant-retained denture. Allow him or her to take the denture off the model and “click it” back in place. Conclude by asking:

“How do you think this retention would be for you? What do you think would change regarding your daily activities?”

The next step in getting increased patient treatment acceptance is to handle objections while patients are present in your office. For example, if a patient were to say, “Wow, this all sounds great, but it’s expensive and I just don’t have the money,” you might respond like this:

“I see you are surprised by the fee and may want to delay treatment as a result. If there were a way to make monthly payments more affordable and comfortable for you by extending them over a longer period of time, would you want to go ahead with the dental implants?”

This is a perfect time to introduce the patient to one of your outside funding sources like CapitalOne®, CareCredit®, or Unicorn® Financial Services. Share sample monthly fee schedules and offer to contact the selected source either online or by telephone to determine if this is an option. Conclude with a statement of confidence:

“Mrs. Patient, there really is no better value at this time. Dental implants have a 97 percent success rate over a 20-year period.”

Finally, once all objections are handled and the patient is ostensibly prepared to go forward with treatment, firm up the financial arrangement and call the specialist’s office so that the patient may appoint for the consultation. Follow up with your periodontist or oral surgeon to make sure the patient arrived for the consultation.

The true management and communication skills of implant dentistry are a team effort. Track the results with monthly monitors indicating each patient’s name and the number of implants presented, accepted, scheduled, and financially agreed upon. Invest time in staff training to ensure that all team members know, understand, and value dental implants as the standard of care.

Practice verbal expression of the benefits of dental implants with enthusiasm and confidence, while effectively handling patients, questions, concerns, and objections. Instead of “Let me think about it,” prepare to hear “This sounds great. When can we get started?”

Jo Ann Pulver is the president and owner of The Sapphire Group, an internationally known speaking and practice-management firm specializing in business development for dentists and dental specialists. She has instructed more than 400 dental implant study groups on management and communication skills of implant dentistry for oral surgeons and periodontists. She is a member of the Key Opinion Leaders group and has spoken at major meetings and conventions, including the American Dental Association annual session. She has a master’s degree in counseling and a bachelor’s degree in human services. For more information, contact her at [email protected] or call (773) 775-5443.

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