A quadrant or a cup of coffee?

April 1, 2004
What they say: "Increase your quadrant crown-and-bridge acceptance even a small percentage, and you'll grow your practice by leaps and bounds.

Tom Orent, DMD

What they say: "Increase your quadrant crown-and-bridge acceptance even a small percentage, and you'll grow your practice by leaps and bounds. To get there, first look at case rejection. Money is the number-one reason folks tell us they simply can't proceed."

I can prove they are wrong. Doctor and team members must understand why patients don't accept care. "The second reason is fear." Sure, some aren't showing up in dental offices at all. But if you could read your patients' minds, you'd learn that fear is not the main barrier to treatment. "The third reason is too much to do and too little time." This is an excuse covering the real reason they're not accepting your best-option, long-term proposals for your finest dental treatment.

The truth (and I'll prove it) — Ninety-seven percent of patients can afford your best care. Most are not paralyzed with fear and could make the time for treatment — if they truly believe they need the care! Not believing the need for care is the primary reason for rejection of our best long-term treatment. Embrace systems to help patients realize they require immediate attention.

The "red-eye" flight from LAX to Boston

I was waiting at the gate to board the red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Boston. Except for us bleary-eyed, overnight travelers, LAX was deserted. A cleaning woman in her late 70s struggled with a cart. Her back was crooked, and her tiny frame had trouble pushing the heavy cart down the corridor. With her left hand, she pushed; in her right hand was a stick with a cloth on the end. She scraped marks off the floor as she made her way down the hall, barely able to manage the physical exertion required to earn her pay. It was one of those moments that help us regain perspective on how truly tough it is for others to make ends meet. Do you think this woman could afford a $3,000 quadrant of your finest porcelain inlays?

Then, instantly, my "picture" of this woman's life shattered. Her cell phone rang! She answered, "Hello? Mildred, how are you tonight?" She lodged the phone between her left shoulder and her ear, and made her way down the hall, pushing, scraping, and chatting. I'm not implying this woman shouldn't enjoy the luxury of her cell phone. I was heartened to see she at least has an extra $40 or $50 a month to spend on nonessentials. She heads home at 7:00 the next morning. She needs to unwind before bed, so she turns on the TV — serviced by cable or satellite for another $40 or $50 a month! The simple truth is that 97 percent of your patients have at least one cell phone in their family, and at least one elective luxury such as cable or satellite TV. They make these choices.

Case acceptance

Here is what patients really want to know, plus a real-life comparison. Folks must believe they need the care, and feel they can afford it. Once you learn the magic of how to convince them their asymptomatic teeth need treatment, the next step is to help them afford it. You tell them it's $3,000 for the quadrant, and all they really want to know is, "Can it fit into my budget?"

Financing $3,000 can be done for as low as $63 a month (60 months; Dental Fee Plan). "Mrs. Jones, would it help if we could get this down to about $60 to $65 a month?" Don't stop there. What really brings home the affordability is to break it down to a real-life, daily comparison: "Sixty to 65 dollars a month is about $2 a day — less than you'd spend for a large cup of coffee at Starbucks!"

When I ask dentists and their teams to write down the percentage of their patients who truly cannot afford their best care, they usually give me a pretty big number — 20, 30, even 40 percent of their patients. Only moments later, after a discussion similar to the one above, they have no trouble recognizing that almost every patient in their practices can afford their very best care, if they believe they need it and are motivated to take immediate action. Those "gems" will be the topic of next month's column. Until then, take care, and enjoy!

Dr. Tom Orent, past president of the New England Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, has lectured at dental schools and societies in 48 of the 50 United States and in five countries. His books, tapes, and newsletters have been sold in 25 countries. In 1990, he was accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and has served as Editor of the AACD Journal. Dr. Orent has authored four books and hundreds of articles, and has written ongoing "Gems" columns for five national publications. He can be reached through www.GemsInnerCircle.com or by calling (888) 880-GEMS (4367).

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