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Who is a candidate for a smile design? This is a decision that is made with every patient every day. Every day, how many patients are offered the options of a whiter, brighter, and more attractive smile? Many doctors and staff members fear being pushy, feeling rejected, or aren`t sure which patients to approach about cosmetic dentistry. If you want more patients to say "yes" to cosmetic dentistry, you must adopt beliefs and strategies that have you "sold" on the value of changing someone`s smile

Choose your beliefs wisely

Penny Reed

Who is a candidate for a smile design? This is a decision that is made with every patient every day. Every day, how many patients are offered the options of a whiter, brighter, and more attractive smile? Many doctors and staff members fear being pushy, feeling rejected, or aren`t sure which patients to approach about cosmetic dentistry. If you want more patients to say "yes" to cosmetic dentistry, you must adopt beliefs and strategies that have you "sold" on the value of changing someone`s smile.

Beliefs about the types of treatment you offer and who will accept your suggestions are the driving force behind your success. For example, if you believe that only patients who drive an expensive car, wear designer clothing, and are between the ages of 35 and 50 are open to cosmetic dentistry, how many patients who don`t fit that description will be offered the best treatment? In the same way, if you believe that patients will only accept treatment covered by insurance, how often will they be offered elective procedures? Your beliefs begin a cycle of focus, actions, and results.

Your beliefs determine your focus, which influences the actions you take and directly impacts the results you receive. For example, if you believe a 55-year-old teacher would not be interested in improving his or her smile, you would not be likely to ask him or her about it, which greatly increases the likelihood that he or she will not have cosmetic dentistry, reinforcing your belief.

The good news is that you get to choose your beliefs. Our beliefs are supported by past references in our lives, much like the legs of a table support the tabletop. If we want to change our beliefs about cosmetic dentistry, we must change our references.

Once you become clear about your beliefs regarding cosmetic dentistry, you must share these with your team. Let them know how you feel and why you feel that way. Every patient deserves a choice about the type of treatment he or she would like to have.

It is equally important for your team to be excited about delivering the best. How many times has a patient asked the hygienist, assistant, or administrative team, "Do you really think I will be happy with veneers?" or "Do you really think it will be worth it to replace my silver fillings with tooth-colored fillings?" Your team needs to be prepared with responses to these questions. The best examples are either your team`s personal experiences or from experiences patients have had in your office. An effective way to give reassurance to patients who ask these questions is the "Feel, Felt, Found" technique.

Once treatment is accepted, beliefs also play a large part in making financial arrangements. For example, Mrs. Jones is presented with a treatment plan of 16 veneers and is very excited about getting started. She knows the treatment will be rather expensive and is prepared to make arrangements for financing. The financial coordinator must believe that Mrs. Jones is making an exciting and very important decision that will have a significant effect on her appearance and her life. If these are the beliefs of the financial coordinator, any questions that Mrs. Jones may have about financial options will be taken as a request for more information and not as a sign that she doubts the treatment is worth the amount of money proposed.

After you and your team develop your beliefs, the next step is to implement a system for enrollment. The enrollment process can be divided into five steps.

1. Develop rapport - This step is often skipped. You may feel that you don`t have time for conversation or that the patient will be annoyed by you visiting with them. Patients enjoy both you and your team being interested in them. Find one or two things that you have in common with the patient and you have an instant friend.

2. Evaluate their needs and wants - A patient`s needs are the easiest to diagnose because they are discovered during the exam. Cosmetic dentistry is "wants" dentistry. The most effective way to evaluate what a patient wants is by asking them questions.

3. Your treatment is the answer - Explain to patients how their present condition conflicts with their needs and wants for their smile. Follow up by asking:

"Can you see how veneers will give you the smile you want?"

"Do you understand that, if this disease is left untreated, you will not be able to keep your teeth long-term?"

4. Get a commitment - Always assume that the patient is going to accept the treatment you present. There are several ways to ask for a commitment:

"When would you like to get started?"

"Do you have any concerns that will prevent you from starting this treatment today?"

"If we assist you in working out the financing for your treatment, are you ready to get started?"

5. Reinforce their decision - Congratulate your patients. They have made a big decision and must feel good about it or they may get a case of buyer`s remorse. Give them the experience of having their treatment completed now by asking:

"Won`t it be great when you have the smile you have been wanting for your daughter`s wedding pictures?"

"How will you feel when you walk into your next sales meeting with your new smile?"

"Won`t you enjoy being able to laugh, talk, and smile without worrying about showing silver from your fillings?"

If you want to be successful in delivering the best treatment, the first step is to decide to have beliefs that strengthen your confidence in delivering the best treatment. Second, show your team how optimal treatment will impact the lives of your patients. Then, implement enrollment strategies to focus on the wants of your patients. Once you are sold on delivering the best, your team and your patients will be too.

For more information about this article, contact the author at (877) 61-COACH or fpmreed@aol.com. A biography of the author appears on page 12.

Limiting Beliefs

About Smile Design Candidates

] My patients will be offended if presented with cosmetic options.

] Patients will not spend that kind of money on optional treatment.

] If it isn`t covered by insurance, patients won`t do it.

] Our patient base does not have the "right type" of patients.

Success Beliefs

About Smile Design Candidates

] By asking permission, I can present the very best treatment.

] Patients will spend their money on what they really want.

] Everyone wants to look his or her best.

] If we create enough value for our patients, they will accept the best treatment, even if it is not covered by insurance.

Feel, Felt, Found

Personal example of veneers

"Mrs. Jones, I understand your concerns about whether or not you will be happy with veneers. When I was considering having my smile design done, I felt the same way. Now, my only regret is that I didn`t have it done years ago. My teeth feel so natural and I can`t keep from smiling. My family is amazed at how beautiful and natural my teeth look."

Feel, Felt, Found

Example of replacing amalgams with composites

"Mrs. Jones, I understand your concerns about removing the silver fillings in your teeth. Many of our patients in your situation have felt the same way, and what they found is that they love to laugh without worrying about others noticing the large fillings in their teeth. The composite fillings look so natural."

"Needs"-oriented questions

"How long has this tooth been hurting you?"

"Are you experiencing any discomfort when you drink something hot or cold?"

"Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth?"

"Wants"-oriented questions

"What is most important to you in your dental treatment?"

"Are you pleased with the appearance of your smile?"

"How long would you like to keep your teeth?"

"Wants" questions give you the answers you need to "qualify" the type of treatments which interest your individual patients. Examples of responses from patients that point to a desire for the best treatment available would be:

"What is most important to me is that teeth are healthy and look nice."

"No, I wish I could change my smile. I wish my teeth were as white as yours."

"I would like to keep my teeth as long as possible."

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