The five reasons your patients say no to dental treatment

Why patients might be saying no to dental treatmentRichard Scarborough examines the reasons your patients say no to dental treatment, and how you can turn it around to increase uptake.

There can be many reasons your patients may say no to recommended dental treatment. But the good news is that the majority are easily avoided.

It’s a common scenario where you recommend dental treatment and you think a patient is ready to move forward with your recommendation…and then they decline. Not only does this mean that your patient is not getting the dental treatment that they want or need, but your practice and treatment bottom line isn’t reaching its full potential.

It can be frustrating. However, the key is to understand why your patients aren’t moving forward and do something about it.

Below is a list of five common reasons why your patients are saying no. Along with changes you can take to increase the number of patients who will say yes.

1. Inadequate rapport

Your patients need to trust you. Focusing on the dentistry simply isn’t enough. Patients want to know you care about them and have their best interest at heart.

Rapport is the forerunner to effective communication. When you are in rapport with someone, they will pay more attention to you and ‘less critically’ accept your suggestions. So learning how to build rapport with your patients is a highly valuable skill. Ensure that you are spending adequate time talking with your patients. Ask them about their families and friends. Take the time to talk to them about their oral health goals and address their concerns.

2. A positive pause

I’m sure you’ve had a time when you were talking to a patient about a particular treatment that could help them, and for a split second they looked doubtful. What did you do? Assume that their facial expression meant they would decline and altered the course of your conversation completely?

But what if you paused and asked them what they were thinking? What if your assumption became a discovery. One that revealed that their look of doubt hadn’t been about the dental treatment you were starting to suggest, but simply about their ability to stay any longer because their car parking ticket would expire soon? That discovery could enable a totally different chain of events. One which would enable you to cater to their time constraint and find a suitable time to continue the conversation with a positive outcome for all involved.

3. No dental treatment coordinator

As much as you might want to, you don’t always have the time to present dental treatment cases to every patient whilst they sit in the chair. Skimming over the detail for some patients simply isn’t enough for them to be able to make up their mind.

If you have inadequate time to have proper conversations with your patient, do you make that time by running into the next appointment or inviting them back another time? Do you have a treatment coordinator (TCO)? If not, then you may be missing a trick.

A TCO can pick up your recommendations and go over treatment plan details. From how long it may take to post-op care and even payment options. They can address any questions or concerns the patient may have. Some patients will find it easier to talk to someone other than the dentist. Hold these conversations in a private and comfortable environment, and never rush them.

4. A caring follow-up

There are two realities here, the first is that some patients won’t accept dental treatment straight away. They may like to take the time to think about their options, perhaps even talk it through with a spouse at home.

The other reality is that unless the patient is self-motivated to go ahead with dental treatment, probably due to aesthetic or pain reasons, they’re unlikely to proactively call and make the appointment.

This is especially the case if they originally came in for a check-up, expecting everything to be fine, and were told they actually needed costly dental treatment such as a crown or implant.

The onus is on you and your team to follow up. Ideally a call your TCO will arrange a call with the patient before they leave the practice. If that’s not possible, make sure the appropriate team member schedules in a call two days after the appointment.

5. Affordability versus price

Even when a patient understands the value of the dental treatment that you are suggesting, in the majority of cases, affordability will come into play. Especially when an unexpected treatment need arises. There’s a difference between affordability and price. Saying that the price is £2,400 is one thing, but enabling them to spread this cost over time makes it more affordable for them.

Offering patient finance enables your patient to spread the cost of the dental treatment over a range of terms (typically from six to 60 months). Your practice is paid in full, up-front at the start of dental treatment. All without the risk of the patient defaulting with their payments or the hassle of you managing an in-house scheme.

In conclusion

Take time to reflect on how many patients go ahead with the dental treatment options that you present. Ideally measure this conversion rate, see how it compares to that of your peers. For patients that don’t go ahead with dental treatment, were there indicators as to why? For those that do go ahead withdental  treatment, do they go for the best option or the cheapest option?

Reflect on what you could do differently to make it easier for your patients to say yes to your treatment recommendations. These changes can be simple to implement and it could soon improve your patient experience and show in your bottom line.

Interested in learning how Medenta can help you to improve your patient experience? Call on 01691 684175 or visit

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