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Yes, no, and maybe

Jan. 1, 2011
I teach the people in the offices I work with how to create a series of conversations with their patients.

Nate Booth, DDS

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: yes, no, and maybe, comprehensive case acceptance, understanding, Dr. Nate Booth.

I teach the people in the offices I work with how to create a series of conversations with their patients. Done correctly, this process often leads to the patients asking for the comprehensive care they need and want. When this does not occur, team members must ask the patients how they want to proceed.

The answer to that question will fall into one of three categories: yes, no, or maybe.

If they say "yes," congratulate them on their decision and schedule their appointments.

If they say "no," inquire if they mean "no, not now," or "no, never," and proceed accordingly. If money is a huge challenge, say, "I understand. Let’s start with the care that absolutely needs to be done. When the time is right, we’ll be here to complete the rest."

If they say "maybe," it may be in the form of:

  • "I want to think about it."
  • "I need to talk with my spouse."
  • "I need to check my finances."

There are three ways to proceed with maybe:

1. Have them back for a final consultation. Say, "I understand completely. Let’s have you back for a final consultation with your spouse. That way we answer all your questions so you can make an informed decision."

2. Set a decision date. Say, "I understand. When do you think you will make a decision?" When they give you a date, you say, "If we haven’t heard from you by (a day after the date they told you), is it okay if we give you a call? I want to make sure we get started with your perio therapy/fix that broken tooth/start that root canal."

3. Get started with something. If they continue to put off making a decision on comprehensive care, get them appointed for their most urgent care – a badly broken tooth, an extraction, or a root canal. Don’t let the "maybe" people float away; they may never come back. Get started with something. After you do and they experience your level of care, they typically will want to proceed with your comprehensive care plan.

I can’t emphasize the "get started with something" approach enough. I’ve seen several dental offices fall into the all-or-nothing case acceptance trap. This is a huge mistake. It is not in patients’ best interests if they never gain the momentum needed to propel them to optimal dental health. And it’s not in your practice’s best interest for you to lose your patients’ trust and commitment.

From 1987 to 1997, I worked closely with Tony Robbins in the creation and delivery of group training programs. Something Tony said often was, "Be rigid with your desired outcomes and flexible in your approaches for achieving them." We all want our patients to have optimal, comprehensive dentistry (a rigid outcome), and we must have several different ways we can help them achieve that outcome (flexible approaches).

Lao Tzu agrees with Tony. He said 2,500 years ago, "Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it. So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful."

Be understanding. Be caring. Be flexible. These three characteristics will enable you to effectively navigate your twisty path through life, overcome its numerous challenges, and ultimately reach the practice and life of your dreams.

For more information on Dr. Booth’s presentations to dental groups, his Comprehensive Case Acceptance in-office coaching program, or his 75-minute interactive "Yes" System webinar that you can attend from the comfort of your home, call (702) 444-1362, or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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 is the creator of the in-office, DVD based program, The "Yes" System. For more information, go to, or call (702) 444-1362.

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