dental news for dentists from the best minds in dentistry today header image 2

Linda Miles & Dr. Rhonda Savage on Dental Case Acceptance

September 4th, 2009 · No Comments

Verbal Skills on the part of the Doctor and the Team
Staff Viewpoint by Linda Miles – Doctor’s Viewpoint by Dr. Rhonda Savage

big-smiles-teamPatients build trust based on how they perceive the dentist. Does he or she treat their employees well? Is the doctor warm, caring and empathetic? Do you have your patient’s best interests at heart? In addition, many dentists have employees who are empathetic and care about their patients, but they have trouble expressing warmth.
How many of you have known someone who knows dentistry perfectly but doesn’t understand the human side of case acceptance?

Doctor’s Viewpoint: (Rhonda Savage)

You may have spent years focusing on the technical side of dentistry and are very knowledgeable about it, yet its warmth and a relationship that our patients need and want. It’s warmth that is a “hard to measure” invisible quotient of the highly successful businesses. Pressures of running a successful business can weigh heavily on many offices. It’s a tough job we face. How can we exude warmth and win the trust of the patient when our minds are scattered with the pressures of a business, being a boss and solving complex problems.

Staff’s Viewpoint (Linda Miles)

Dental team members face the same pressure. How can an employee show warmth, empathy and concern if they have other patients waiting, haven’t had a restroom break and perhaps little time to eat? Think about your own emotional needs and those of your team: are you hungry, tired, sad, angry, and frustrated? It’s difficult to project warmth if we don’t feel well.
We do have an opportunity to work on our ability to project warmth and communication skills, beginning with listening skills. The answer to the complex questions raised above is that being a good-to-great, successful business requires a range of “soft” skills, like listening skills and rapport building.

  • Listening skills for the doctor and team:
    1. Listen by leaning forward; don’t say a word.
    2. Pause before replying; when you pause, it raises the self-esteem of the other person.
    3. Question for clarification: “what do you mean?”
    4. Feed it back; paraphrase in your own words; show you’ve really been listening.
  • When we first meet a new patient, talk to your patient about their problems before offering solutions. This all takes time and cannot be accomplished in 5 minutes during the hygiene appointment. Separate your new patient exam from the hygiene time. The doctor should spend between 10-15 minutes personally with the new patient to establish rapport, be empathetic, talk about patient’s issues and problems and then offer treatment. Unless the patient really understands their needs, they won’t buy into treatment. Your patient must know that you have their very best interest at heart. The best way to do this is to talk to the patient about their needs as if you needed them yourself.

    Do this by holding off in offering the solution until the patient understands what’s needed. As practitioners, we often get started talking in depth, clinically, about the fracture, impacted food, bacteria, infection…without defining the problem in lay person’s terms and outlining the consequences if they don’t have treatment done. To improve case acceptance, work on warmth, empathy, have time for the patient, and define the problem so the patient understands; then offer treatment options.

  • Verbal skills: Doctors, train your team to speak for you. Practice and then delegate the ability for your team to communicate with the patient. Patients ask common questions. For the next week, put a notepad by every chair and phone. Ask the team to write down every question the patients ask. At the end of the week, tally the questions. The doctor’s homework is to then, over the weekend, write out a 2-3 line answer, briefly and concisely. The questions can be placed on one side of a 5 by 7 card, the answer on the other. Then, the team practices. The essence or meaning of the answer is internalized. The team member learns what the doctor wants him or her to say, but uses their own words. Be careful to not script word for word. Patients know when they’ve been “scripted” and do not like feeling like they’re being “sold”.
  • Make certain that you have the time to take a break! If you are constantly running over on your schedule and the team members do not have time for lunch or breaks, or you’re working after hours, you have a scheduling problem! Morale will drop and it’s hard to project warmth when you’re tired, hungry and running behind.
  • Learn the answer to common questions/concerns:
    1. My insurance won’t cover it!
    2. I’ve been going to another dentist for years! He never told me I needed all of this treatment.
    3. I’m terrified of having any dental treatment done!
    4. I’m too old for this type of treatment!
    5. My insurance company says your fees are above average!
  • Final “To-Do” list: communication and listening skills require continual training. The book, Dynamic Dentistry, and our DVD’s go in depth into verbal skills. To see the range of products that can be used for team training and your staff meetings, go to and look under Products. We also have a two day workshop, the Dental Team Conference, which is excellent for motivating and training the entire team. We look forward to helping your practice grow!
  • Visit LLM&A Consulting online!

Tags: Two Sides of the Management Coin by Linda Miles and Dr. Rhonda Savage

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment