Practice Systems

Resolving Patient Objections

There are three keys to finding solutions for a patient’s care and resolving objections.



Good Straightforward Communication

Good communication involves two things – listening and talking. This sounds simple but many people forget the first component. Without listening you cannot know what your patient needs, wants, or finds concerning. To effectively listen:

  • Be warm and attentive. People have an instinctive feel for when someone wants to listen.
  • Maintain eye contact. Focus your gaze on the patient’s eyes. The patient needs to know they are “seen” and their care is the #1 priority.
  • Show you are listening. Communication is a dynamic, interactive process. Paraphrase to ensure you are truly understanding what your patient is saying.
  • Be genuine. Engage, ask questions, provide feedback, and empathize with emotions. If you can’t empathize with the exact emotion, then at least sympathize.
  • Use silence appropriately. Silence shows acceptance and creates space for the patient.

When talking, speak slowly, clearly, and avoid technical jargon and/or abbreviations. When technical jargon is used during a conversation with someone who doesn’t understand the term(s), confusion ensues and the patient is less inclined to proceed with treatment.

Ask open-ended questions.




Good Case Presentation Skills

Communicating with a patient during case presentation requires special skills and involves a number of factors beyond the mere statement of facts. The Doctor needs to:

  • Allot for uninterrupted time. The patient and successful case presentation require undivided attention.
  • Avoid interruptions in operatories. Unless it is an emergency, staff questions should wait.
  • Be eye level with the patient. This helps create a sense of comfort and connection.
  • Make use of intraoral photos. These allow the patient to see what the clinician sees and understand the proposed treatment. IOPs have a powerful impact on case acceptance – they’ve been shown to increase case acceptance by 35%.
  • Create tangible value. Use other visual aids such as digital images, models, and before and after photos.
  • Create a co-diagnosis approach. The hygiene team should feel comfortable interviewing the patient and directing the conversation to oral health concerns and options. Spend the time necessary to make sure the hygiene team understands the Doctor’s clinical philosophy.




Provide Options

The two most common reasons patients decline or hedge on proceeding with treatment are anxiety and financial constraints. Whenever possible, provide options for the patient in terms of anxiety management and various financing options. We recommend having three external financing options and internal financing plans limited to 3 months or less. Exceptions can be made for higher-fee treatment such as orthodontics, not to exceed 6 months.

If you think or know cost is going to be an objection, be proactive – bring it up first. This gives you an opportunity to turn a potential negative into a positive and the patient can receive needed treatment.

The financial conversation you have with a patient is an intimate one and should be held in a private or semi-private area. Handling it with care will build strong relationships. By developing financial options, you help your patients and your productivity.



Scripting Examples


The Patient Expresses Financial Concerns

Patient: “I have no money.” Or “I can’t afford that!”

    • Response: “I understand. How can I help?” (Remember, ask open-ended questions and pause to listen.)
    • Response: “Ok. We do have financing options for you – let me tell you about them. We will do everything possible to help you have the treatment you need.”

Patient: “Can’t I just pay $25 per month, like I used to?”

    • Response: “In an effort to keep our fees lower for patients, we can no longer carry long-term account balances. I know you are not used to this, so I want to provide you with options. We are now associated with (name of financing company); it’s a financing company for dentistry. The application process is easy and it allows you to make monthly payments for an extended period of time. We have many patients and families utilizing this plan.” (Pause and listen.)

Patient: “I don’t know. I want to do it but it’s just so expensive!”

    • Response: “If we can make financing comfortable for you, would it be possible to move forward with the recommended treatment?”


The Patient Expresses Insurance Concerns

Patient: “I only want to do what my insurance covers.” or “If my insurance doesn’t cover it, I can’t get it done.”

    • Response: “We will do everything we can to help you maximize your insurance benefits.” (Discuss their particular plan here – yearly maximum, remaining benefits, and coverage rate for procedures.) “Based on the information we have and our experience with this insurance company, we can estimate very closely what we expect them to pay. You will be responsible for the remaining balance. We do have excellent payment options available. How can I help in this process?”
    • Response: “I understand wanting to maximize your insurance benefits. We will do everything possible to help you. Fortunately, the plan your employer purchased does offer a benefit for the treatment you need.” (It is important for the patient to feel good about the coverage they do have, something is better than nothing. In addition, if the patient feels their plan is not very good, they may want to delay treatment to research other plans.) “Please know there are limitations with all dental benefit plans. Dental insurance is nothing like medical or even auto insurance. Given the various limitations and restrictions, it’s more along the lines of cost assistance. That’s why we started looking for more feasible alternatives for our patients. We have (insert your office’s financing options) available. What can I do to help?”


The Patient is Politely Evasive

Patient: “I’m not scheduling now. I need to think about it.”

    • Response: “Ok. Do you have any particular questions?” (Pause and listen.)
    • Response: “In order for me to be clear as to what you’re considering, let me ask – is it the specific treatment?” (Pause and listen.)

      If the patient’s concern is about treatment, address it. If the patient’s concern is not about treatment, an appropriate follow-up question is “Can you share your hesitation to schedule; I may be able to help.” Ask politely but directly if anxiety or cost is the concern and offer options.


The Patient Questions Restorative Treatment

Patient: “The picture doesn’t look so bad to me. Are you sure I need a crown to replace that filling?”

    • Response: “Mrs. Jones, further breakdown isn’t a matter of if – it is a matter of when. It is your choice, of course, when and if you choose to do something. My job is to show you, inform you, and take care of you. My responsibility is to educate patients on the potential health consequences and expenses of inaction.”
The Patient Questions the Need For Periodontal Therapy

Patient: “I just want a regular cleaning.”

    • Response: “Linda/Mrs. Smith, let me sit you up for a minute. I need to show you and talk to you about what I’m finding today. Based on your images and the periodontal probing depths, we recommend __________. A “regular” cleaning or prophy won’t adequately treat your condition. To achieve the healthiest result and to reduce the chance of tooth loss in the future, __________ is the appropriate treatment. I know this is news for you. Please know that over 50% of adults will have some flare-up of gum disease at some point. The newest research has proven if we take a proactive approach at this level of disease you can successfully manage it indefinitely. Of course, once you are diagnosed with gum disease we can’t cure it, but between the two of us we can manage it.”


The Patient Questions or Challenges Appointment Intervals

Patient: “Why do I need to come in every six months? I brush my teeth every day.”

    • Response: “You’ve been taking great care of your teeth for a long time and have been pretty successful. Your hygiene appointments are a lot like taking your car in for maintenance. You are maintaining your “investment” (health) and correcting small problems before they become more expensive and/or permanent problems.”


The Patient is Fearful or Anxious

Patient: “I know I need to get this done but I’m so scared.”

    • Response: “I understand. You are not alone. I will be right here with you. What can I/we do to help you with this?” (Offer routine protocols the practice uses such as nitrous oxide, sedative medication, etc.)
    • Response: “I understand. You know what’s funny? I do this for a living and even I get a little nervous when I’m in the “big” chair. We can do this together. What can I do to help you? (If you have an appropriate/funny personal anecdote for how you manage anxiety, share it.) 
    • Response: “I completely empathize and I’m in this with you. You are in complete control. If at any time during treatment, you need something, simply raise your hand – we’ll pause, take care of it, and begin again when you’re ready. You can do this!”



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