The Economics of Treatment Presentation

No one can deny the importance of treatment presentation in the successful dental practice, however how best to do it does generate some discussion. On the side of the practitioner there are the issues of how to best approach the patient with treatment presentation; where to make the presentation; and who should be the one to present. On the side of the patient there are the two most common issues of the natural concern of doing any non-standard procedure that may be painful or protracted; and the always delicate conversation about price and how to pay for it.

There are many opinions about how to do this successfully, but what we have seen works best for relatively routine procedures is the chairside approach by the dentist. This simple method has been used with success for years. One recommendation is that the dentist not stand over or sit higher than the patient. The dentist that sits at the same level as the patient reduces the intimidation factor, and the more relaxed patients are, the more receptive they are.

Then there are times when the doctor may not have time to present a complicated procedure and have the adequate visual aids that would help the patient understand. In this case handing off the patient to the treatment presentation coordinator is the best way to go. This person must be trained to present treatment, and personality is crucial. Patients will trust their dentists and hygienists, but may balk when they are not familiar with the presenter. The coordinator must inspire confidence by being friendly, informed and confident. In an effective hand-off, the dentist will appear at the chairside and tell the patient what the problem is and then introduce the coordinator who is standing in the wings. The doctor will reassure the patient that this person will take good care of him or her. Then the presenter walks the patient from the operatory to the treatment presentation room. The presenter can then take the time necessary to explain the treatment and answer any questions about procedure, expected recovery time and the positive results of having the work done. Remember sell results, not the discomfort (if any) and time it takes to achieve the results. Allow the patient to initiate any “worst case scenario” about the procedure and deal with it honestly, but NEVER start there.

Selling the beautiful smiles that patients want by pulling up the most graphic video about the procedure does nothing to allay patient anxiety. The use of static diagrams is far more effective. Intraoral camera views of your patient’s problem can be very powerful. Especially in urgently needed treatment that will have serious and immediate health consequences if the procedure is not done by your practice or by another.

This is where we must consider the patients’ perspective. Their fears are both physical and economic. Since both are understandable, it may be that the best way to start the post-presentation talk is by asking, “What are your major concerns about what I have presented to you?” People are afraid of dental-related pain will start on the clinical side, while those whose major concern is financial, with start with how to pay for it.

Dentistry has long suffered from belief that ridding any mouth pain will involve even more pain. No one has suffered more than dentists in the entertainment media. From the silent movies through current comedies, there are shticks where a character in dental pain fears the treatment more than the pain. It is a cheap shot. Modern dentistry has done more to increase the quality of life and increased vitality than most medical fields. It has a great track record of getting patients out of pain and keeping them there. With that said, pain (existing or caused by procedures) may exist in the mind of the patients, so help them understand the procedure. The coordinator is in the position to minimize patient anxiety. Information and reassurance will go a long way, always remembering to focus on the positive results of having the work done.

The other fear is the financial. While most essential procedures are reasonable in price, some are inherently expensive. Root canals and crowns require a fair amount of chair time and pricy materials. Implant prices are more and more competitive, but still steep for many who need them. Some Ortho and Perio procedures can become major investments quickly. This part of the presentation requires listening and helping the patient find ways of making this happen through third party financial products or in-house payment arrangements.

As with most problems humans have, the right information presented with empathy and reassurance can go a long way in finding a solution. In the end, it is in everyone’s best interest that the patient leaves the office with a beautiful smile and a healthy mouth. 

John Ross