Many dental professionals feel as if treatment acceptance is the hardest skill to master in dentistry. One would think treatment plan acceptance would be one of the easier skills to acquire, after trudging through dental school or dental hygiene school. Yet the average treatment acceptance rate is around 60%, in dental school or hygiene school, that would be a failing grade. Here are a few reasons your treatment acceptance rate may be low. With a few tweaks, hopefully you will see an improvement in those rates right away.
The average treatment acceptance rate is around 60%
When explaining the need for treatment, the use of analogies is helpful. Sometimes we forget that our patients have little to no dental knowledge and often do not understand why they need treatment or what the treatment entails. Explain to the patient why the treatment is necessary, using radiographs and intra-oral pictures is very helpful. When a patient can see the problem for themselves it helps them understand the need for the recommended treatment.
Technology is great when trying to help a patient understand a procedure. Though dental implants have become more the norm for replacing teeth, few patients understand the process, it is still very new to them. All they know is you are “putting a screw in their bone”. I must admit, if I didn’t understand the process, that would frighten me too. There are apps and programs that illustrate the process of most procedures performed in a dental practice. This visual often helps alleviate some of the fear associated with lack of understanding of treatment procedures.
if I didn’t understand the process, that would frighten me too.
This is a pet peeve of mine. I do not like to hear a dental professional describe an issue as “little”, that completely downplays the urgency and need for treatment. No one has a “little” cavity, they either have a cavity or they don’t. The cavity may appear little to you in comparison to other cavities you have seen in the past, but the patient has nothing to compare this to nor do they understand how quickly a cavity progresses. I do not use the term “little” when describing treatment needs, and still I have patients ask if it can wait until their next six-month appointment. My standard response (and the truth) is “I wouldn’t wait if it were me”. Be clear that the treatment needs to be done and waiting is not the best option.
There are endless studies connecting oral health with systemic health. Patients do not always know this connection and may not value the need to have treatment. Taking time to address this misunderstanding will help patients see the value of dental treatment as an extension of systemic health. Patients have access to tons of misinformation on the internet, providing patients with reliable sources to further their understanding is also a great option.
I know this is a tough one to address and my least favorite part of presenting a treatment plan. However, if I have financing options to offer the patient other than payment in full at the time of services, there is a better chance treatment will be accepted. As dental professionals, we see money spent on treatment as an investment in health, patients see a car payment. If I had a dollar for every time, I heard a patient say “Well, I guess I just helped Doc buy a new Mercedes”, I could probably buy myself a new Mercedes. You must find options that work for your practice, but if you want better treatment acceptance, give patients payment options.
If I have options to offer the patient other than payment in full at the time of services, there is a better chance treatment will be accepted.
All the things listed above are easy to incorporate in your treatment plan presentations. If you are having issues with treatment acceptance, discuss some of these issues with your staff at your next office meeting. Don’t let these simple mistakes prevent you from giving your patients the best care possible.
Spring Hayes Hatfield, RDH, is a graduate of Florida State College at Jacksonville. She practices clinically in Tuscaloosa, AL. She is Dental Hygiene Board Certified in Florida, Louisiana, and Alabama. She is the blog manager and co-founder of Dental Masterminds, LLC. Her passions include helping her patients better understand the oral-systemic disease connection and empowering other dental professionals in their quest to provide exceptional dental care. In her free time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and two children and spending time with her animals at her useless animal farm.