Practice Management |3 min read

How Do We Get Patients to Want What They Need?

Real-World Insights from AADOM Author Val Caulfield

Dental patients don’t always want what they need. They always want what they want. They want to have a beautiful smile, they want whiter, straight teeth, and sometimes they even want their teeth cleaned. They also want whatever their insurance benefit will pay and oftentimes, nothing more. What patients don’t want is a root canal or an extraction, or an implant or a bridge, and they definitely don’t want to have to pay for anything.

Build value for dental care

So how do we get patients to want what they need?

First of all, everything in the dental office has value. And all people identify value differently. What one person finds valuable to them, another may not.

Building value for dental care starts with the very first interaction with a patient. The first phone call to the office may be a patient requesting a cleaning. Or it could be a patient who is in extreme pain and they just want to find someone who “takes their insurance” so they can have some relief. We also take calls from patients who want white teeth even though they have a mouth full of decay. The value in these calls is clear. The first caller wants fresh breath and smooth teeth; the second caller wants to be out of pain both in his mouth and in his pocket, while the third caller only values having white teeth and doesn’t want the decay addressed.

The most valuable procedure we offer comes from the hygiene room. You can imagine how, as a practice administrator, I might cringe when I hear a fellow employee tell a patient when confirming, “It’s just a cleaning.”  Their appointment that is “just a cleaning” is their best investment, and our very best opportunity to build value for that unwanted root canal or extraction even though the tooth doesn’t hurt. Who spends more time with our patients than our hygienists? They should know more about our patients’ mouths than our patients do. They have a perfect opportunity to recommend treatment, discuss options, and convince them when it comes to what makes their mouth healthier.

We also must build value for that root canal nobody wants. Nobody wants to be in pain, and truthfully after a root canal is completed, the value is a healthier tooth, no infection, no hot or cold sensitivity, which certainly is more valuable to the patient than it was while they were suffering in pain. The cracked tooth syndrome patient with the large amalgam restoration will definitely value their crown when they don’t get a zing every time they bite down.

How your team can help build value

Our team of assistants and practice administrators is also a very valuable asset to our practices. They have full interaction with the patient before the dentist treats them. This team interaction creates trust and in turn, value for each and every service we offer. We must continue to build our patients’ trust through forming relationships in interactions. Our patients will appreciate the time spent and start valuing our services even when they don’t want them.

Creating trust, value, and relationships

Some of what we offer in dentistry is elective treatment and some is need. It’s only after we put value on treatment that patients begin to want our services. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of our patients by building trust, value, and true relationships in our office. It begins with all of us communicating our desire for patients to have healthy mouths. It begins with us.


Meet the Author

AADOM Author Valarie CaulfieldValarie Caulfield, FAADOM, has been a member of The American Association of Dental Office Management since 2012. She has been involved in dental office administration for 35 years. Her passion for the profession comes from those dentists who have believed in education. They graciously gave her the tools, technology, motivation, and encouragement to never stop learning. Valarie and her husband Ed have been married for 35 years and live in Spokane Valley, WA.



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