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The New Barriers to Patients Accepting Dental Treatment

Tips for Better Patient Communication for DentistsBy Daniel Midson-Short

Dentistry is a human business. No matter how much you wish it was purely clinical or technical, the truth is that it all depends on interactions with people. 

The fact is that to build a successful dental practice, you need to get along with your patients. You need your patients to say yes to your solutions. When they accept treatment, it means your business makes money. All the clinical skills in the world won’t help if your patient says no to treatment.

Many of the barriers that cause patients to avoid treatment are subversive. They are caused by external forces, but it is still important that you know about them. If you know about them, you can be ready and move past them as they occur in your office.

Here are three barriers that cause most dental patients to avoid, or say no to dental treatment. 

1) Bad Past Experiences

By far, the biggest barrier that dentists face is a negative perception of dentists in general.

Most dentists, hygienists and dental teams are used to hearing their patients say “I really hate coming to the dentist.” This is not a common phrase heard in other businesses, yet it is almost a part of daily life for dentists and their teams.

The reason patients express this negative feeling is due to bad past experiences they have had, often many years ago. Because of bad past experiences, many patients are entering your practice nervous and mistrusting.

Please understand: it is not your fault that patients have had these bad past experiences. You don't need to apologize for something that you didn’t do. However, it is your responsibility to let your patients share them. If a patient feels comfortable to tell you about why they feel negatively, it will go a long way to building trust.

To help them to do this, it is important to understand the story behind their bad experiences. Once you understand, you can empathize with them and share that you are there to support them. Doing this is a key to helping patients trust you and know that you have their best interests in mind. 

2) Information Found Online

The idea of ‘googling’ is no longer new. Today you simply take for granted that you can search online wherever you need to. When it comes to your patients, this means two things:

  • Patients first search for you online
  • They research dental information online

Your patients, especially new patients, are very interested in your online reputation. They want to know what others say and think about you. A 2013 Nielsen study reports that 98% of consumers now make buying decisions after searching online for reviews and information.

Often dentists have no idea what sort of things are written about them online. The fact is one or two bad reviews can lower your ratings, and your new patient intake numbers. 

The other fact is that patients are searching for (and finding) answers to dental concerns before and after they come to your practice. Essentially, you are now the middle part of a patient’s search for dental information.

Both these situations are now realities dentist must accept. Trying to avoid them or tell patients not to ‘trust’ information online is a mistake. It has almost the reverse effect.

To overcome this barrier, you must be aware of your online presence. You should ideally be transferring the happy patients’ comments into positive reviews. Through information on your website, you can also manage the way patients learn about and understand their dental conditions.

3) Exposure to Sales Techniques

The third barrier a lot of dentists come up against is what is called ‘sales resistance’.

Whether you realize it or not, all human beings have this tendency built into them. Think about it. You don’t enjoy someone trying to sell you something. You don’t enjoy being viewed as a ‘prospect’ or a ‘customer’. You have the same feelings about sales techniques as your patients. Patients don’t want to be sold anything either.

Due to sales techniques being used for many years in the dental industry, it has created a lot of mistrust between dentists and patients. More than this, they are hyper-sensitive to sales-oriented talk.

The dental industry is full of sneaky sales prompters. Things like:

  • “The investment for this treatment is $$$”
  • “Have you thought about your dental budget?”
  • “Is keeping your teeth important to you?”
All these techniques are thinly-veiled sales prompts that most patients will immediately resist.

A good first step is to remove them from your discussions. A step further is to replace them with trust-building statements. You should clearly state your position as a trusted advisor to your patients, rather than someone there to sell them on treatment. 

Know the Barriers, and Create a Strategy

By simply knowing about these new barriers to patients accepting treatment, you are ahead of the curve. You are more prepared for them when they arise.

The next step is to create a communication strategy that helps you build trust with patients. Next you must give them a clear understanding of their dental conditions and the options available for treatment. Once you have a strategy in place, it makes it much easier to overcome patients avoiding treatment.

Interested in learning more about the creating an effective communication strategy?

The upcoming Primespeak courses, sponsored by The Dawson Academy will teach you an advanced system for building real patient trust and growing case acceptance. 

You can learn more about this course and view what other Dawson Dentists who have attended said about this course by clicking here.

Dental Patient Communication Quiz

Photo credit: by Alex Proimos , on Flickr