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Dental Case Presentation
Don't Sell and You Will Sell More!

by David A. Hall, D.D.S.

I learned this principle quite by accident.

Early in my practice, I was hungry and needed the business. But I always had a little trouble with case presentations. As logical as I sounded, I would be frustrated occasionally when people would decline clearly needed dental treatment. Not only did they need the care, but I needed the work to do. I was successful most of the time, but I was bothered by the rejections.

It was only after I became busy and even a little overworked that I learned what I was doing wrong. After some time of being a little tired from the amount of work I had to do, I sat thinking about this and realized what was happening. As I would present treatment to patients, I came to have the attitude that I didn't care whether they accepted it or not, not on a personal level. Oh, I was a caring practitioner. I wanted them to have the treatment because they needed it. But as for me, personally, I was plenty busy and certainly didn't need the extra work to do.

So when I would sell, thinking about my own needs, I wasn't successful. But when I would sell, thinking only of the patient's needs, they tended to believe me much more readily and would sign up to have the treatment done. I came to have a very high rate of treatment plan acceptance--well over 90%. But I didn't recommend treatment that I didn't personally feel strongly about.

Here are some principles about case presentation that it would be well to heed:


If you are doubtful or unsure, or if your approach to patients is motivated by money or ego, you will not succeed. However, if you are diagnosing, presenting, and educating your patients with strong personal conviction, integrity, and a sense of purpose in helping sick people get healthy, healthy people stay healthy, and flawed people become beautiful, you will thrive and flourish. Who you are as a person, your motivations, and your intentions will shine through, and they are more readily apparent to people than you realize.


Only about half of all people go to the dentist regularly. There is certainly no shortage of treatment needs in the population. Think about this, and divorce yourself from the notion that everyone you see needs to be your patient. There is plenty of work out there. If a patient doesn't fit into your practice, let them go. There are people who want a patchwork dentist, and if you're a comprehensive care dentist, then maybe you're not for them. Also, there are people, who, for their own private reasons, are not ready for the treatment you recommend. Be gentle with them. Tell them what they need, and tell them straight. But don't have in your mind that you need them to undertake this treatment. If you have to, take a moment before you enter the treatment consultation and remind yourself how you are comfortable and have the things you need, and try to get your own personal life out of your mind.


We all have our own motivating factors that will get us to act. An important talent in getting a patient to buy is being good at getting the patient to tell you his or her problems, needs, wants, and concerns. You will have more fun and success when you stop trying to get what you want and start helping your patients get what they want. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be straightforward with your patients as to the true condition of their mouths and what you recommend for them. Their decisions need to be informed, and you are the professional that they are paying so that you can give them your recommendations. But learn whatever you can about your patients in order to serve them in the best possible way they can relate to.


Selling takes time. Slow down, focus your attention on your patients, and devote more quality time to each one. Your patients notice how much attention you give them when they are in your office and in your chair, and they're very sensitive about that. They evaluate that in deciding how much they think you care about them. You cannot be effective at closing patients on your treatment recommendations when you are rushed or pressured, or when you are attempting to be mentally and physically in 2 or more places at one time. When you are with a patient, be with a patient with focus. Talk less and listen more. Get them thinking, realizing, and making the decisions that you want them to make on their own.


From the first phone call to the end of their visit and beyond, patients are deciding whether or not they are going to buy from you. Therefore, the service you and your staff offer must be impeccable and the physical environment must be immaculate. Patients translate excellent customer service and a quality physical environment into trust. They also equate the level of service and the condition of the office with the quality of dentistry they receive. They can't tell directly what the quality is, so they infer it from what they can see. All of this builds trust, and trust is essential in selling health care.

In addition, you need to handle patients’ primary objections: time, money, and pain. Minimize the time objection by running on time. Start on time. Tell the patient how long to expect to be in the office and then finish on time. Remove the money objection by offering sensible and flexible third-party financing options and in-house payment options that benefit you and the patient. Avoid surprises when it comes to dealing with insurance companies and presenting your fees by having a strong financial coordinator and good financial policies that are discussed prior to any patient treatment. These are just a few of the many ways to remove monetary objections. Deal with the pain issue by utilizing every method at your disposal to make your patients comfortable. With an easygoing chairside manner, headphones, nitrous oxide, a comfortable and effective injection technique, and other techniques, you can keep your patients comfortable and improve case acceptance.


This article has presented a few of the principles that can increase treatment acceptance without the need to sell in the conventional sense. It is selling without really selling--selling by cultivating trust, rather than by twisting arms. And patients are looking at basically two issues when they are deciding if they trust you. First, do you care? Do you know and understand them and their needs? Second, are you competent? Do you know what you are doing to the point where they can rely on you to properly fix whatever is wrong? If you provide them the right answers to those two questions, they will do what you recommend.

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