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Dangers in diagnosing the pocketbook

Let's talk for a minute about a financial issue, diagnosing the pocket book or maybe another way of looking at it is X-raying the wallet. I think we all have a little bit of preconceived ideas when we meet other human beings. We kind of size them up by the way they look, the way they dress, the way they manicure themselves.


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Don't judge a book by its cover

But it's really not a fair kind of situation because depending on the time of day you might see me not looking very much like this at all. So let me relate it in a way that will help you understand just how invaluable this is to your practice, and really in a sense, it will help you eliminate any kind of judgments of other human beings.

I had a patient that showed up at my office for an urgent dental visit. And he came in, and he needed a pulpotomy. He didn't smell so well and just got off of work as a cook at a waffle house, so I explained to him what he needed.

He says, "Sure. But how long is this going to take?"

I said, "Well, about 20 minutes. Why?" And I had windows in front of the office, so I saw this car that didn't look like it really belonged in a parking lot, but again, I'm trying not to judge people.

He says, "Well, I've left my car running because I'm not sure if I can start it again, and I don't want to run out of gas."

And I said, "What?"

"Yeah. I left my car running, but I've got to get it home. But 20 minutes will do it" he said.

So I did the pulpotomy and said, "Next appointment's complete exam."

Well, you're not sure if he's coming back or not, but wanted to keep an open mind. So he came back. I did a complete exam. First thing he says to me, he looks at my hygienist who had the prettiest, straightest, whitest teeth, and he goes, "I want teeth like hers." So he had a lot of things going. He said, "I didn't grow up with much. I don't really have much now, but I did get dental benefits through my job and I'd like to use them. Can you help me?"

I said, "Sure."

Ask what brought them in

So we laid out a treatment plan. It involved molar uprighting, perio issues. He had missing first molars on both sides, some decay. He needed crowns, endodontic procedures, the whole nine yards.



Well, we sat down and he said, "Well, how can I do this in phases?"

And I said, "Well, that works out pretty well," because he had $1,500 a year. So a long story short of this, I ask him, I said, "How did you decide to come to me?"

He said, "Well, do you know my employers" he called the name of the owners of the waffle house.

I said, "Sure, I know them because they're patients of mine."

He goes, "Well, I work there, and so I decided that if they were smart enough to own the waffle house - and I looked; they had pretty good teeth - they were probably smart enough to have a good dentist and this is where I'm starting. I don't want to end up where I am right now. So I asked them, and they referred me to you."

All patients deserve the same care

And so in the next six years, we did all his treatment. He got married. His wife came. They adopted a child. He went from renting an apartment in a bad area of town to buying a house outside of town. You don't know the people that are walking in to you.

And the question I have when you talk about diagnosing their pocket book or X-raying their wallet, even if there's not much in it, do they deserve anything less than what you want for yourself and what you want for your family?

Every single patient deserves the opportunity to be healthy, to have a good self-esteem about themselves, to be able to chew and function properly. Every human being. Our job is to help them find a way to do it in all sorts of avenues, not just treatment, not just appointment scheduling, not just when it fits our needs. But sometimes it's helping them manage their pocket book in a way that they can get what they need. Hope that helps.

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 Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash