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Dental Consultant Tip: Do Patients Understand?


The key to effective case presentation is to get patients to understand by raising their dental IQ, which results in patients who place value on their treatment plan.

This way when you send someone up to the front desk, the treatment coordinator will have a patient who is more willing to figure out the financing of their needed treatment. Whether the patient can pay or not is another story, but at least you've given the front desk staff a fighting chance.

Your case presentation skills (or lack thereof) come into play for only about 20% to 30% of your patients. This is because many of them a) need very little work to begin with, b) don't care about their oral health no matter how much you try to educate them, or c) truly cannot afford the treatment due to a legitimate financial situation.

Increasing your case presentation skills is primarily for those patients who have a substantial treatment plan and could pay if they choose to, but who do not place real value on the treatment. Instead they go out and buy the newest HD TV or fancy tires for their truck. Why? Because they place value on these items and not on their oral health. These are the cases where you can lose a significant amount of production by not refining your case presentation protocol.
To consistently have a high percentage of cases accepted requires the skill to get patients to place value on the treatment.

Talking money

When treatment planning, don’t think about money. Too often I've see dentists who feel obliged to reduce fees or extend credit to patients (often in violation of their own financial policies) when they discuss fees. Doing this sends a bad signal to the front desk. I instead recommend that you treatment plan based on what you feel is clinically best for patients to meet their needs while giving them options, as well as how the plan can be broken up into parts if needed.

2 golden rules of case presentation

1. The more the dentist talks, the lower the case acceptance.
2. The more the patient talks, the higher the case acceptance.

It is not uncommon for a dentist to talk a patient into and then out of accepting treatment.

7 foolproof case presentation tips

1. Truly care and be interested in your patients.

2. Talk to patients in lay, not dental, terms. Don't assume your patients know anything about oral health. Many times I listen to a dentist or hygienist talking about treatment and use terms that sound like the patient just got back from an advanced course on altering occlusion function and esthetics.

3. Use an intraoral camera, draw pictures, and show patients models or their x-rays. You'll lose their interest if you don't. In doing so, do not violate tip No. 2.

4. Don't ask a patient, "Do you understand?" Avoid questions that can be answered "yes" or "no." Too often dentists and hygienists tell patients they need to do this, this, and this, rapid-fire style, throwing in terms like "leaky margins" and then asking, "Do you understand?” Patients say "Yes" when of course they really don’t understand. Most dentists and hygienists never really get patients to fully understand what needs to be done and why. Asking "Any questions?" or "Do you understand?" makes it easier for patients to leave without scheduling.

5. Listen! Let patients answer and talk. Dentists tend to talk too much. The more the patient is talking, the higher the case acceptance.

6. Use analogies. Compare periodontal disease to trying to hold up a post in a hole where the soil has eroded. There are 1,000 different ways to describe dental conditions in terms patients will relate to. An excellent reference book is Dental Analogies by Dr. Rick Waters

7. Make sure the patient understands what will happen to their oral and general health if they do not move forward. This is key.


Kevin Tighe, Cambridge Dental Consultants, Senior Consultant, got bitten hard by the business and marketing bug during long summer days working at his dad's Madison Avenue ad agency. After joining Cambridge as a speaker in the mid-1990s, Kevin went on to become Cambridge’s senior consultant and eventually CEO. Cambridge Dental Consultants is a full-service dental practice management company offering customized dental office manuals. Frustrated? High overhead? Schedule a chat with Kevin at 

Dental Consultant Tip: Insurance Best Practices
Dental Consultants DA Hiring Tips


What Does A Dental Consultant Do? Charge?

Many dentists will tell you dental consulting works. If dental practice management firms had no worth or benefit they could not stand up to harsh economic realities for long. What a veteran dental consultant brings to the table are systems and protocols successfully implemented in other practices that have been improved and tweaked over many years. Top dental consultants talk and network with each other. They pay attention to what works and what doesn't work across all dental practices.

Marketing & New Patients

Practice management consultants generally have little marketing training or background. 

Note: Cambridge'a consultants are Certified SEO and Ad Words Specialists

Dental Office Systems

Key systems dental consultants implement:

  1. New Patient Phone Call
  2. Insurance Processing
  3. New Patient Experience and Patient Education
  4. Financial Arrangements
  5. Scheduling
  6. Confirmation
  7. Unscheduled Treatment Followup
  8. Reactivation
  9. Huddle
  10. Stat Monitoring
  11. Daily and Weekly Checklists
  12. General Policy Manual

Your Staff

You will not get much ROI from your dental consulting if your staff do not have your back. You do not beed a team of cheer leaders jumping up and down with enthusiasm, but you do need staff who are smart and take some pride and ownership in what they do. If there is more than the usual drama in your practice that needs to be sorted out before you will get any real results.

Staff Accountability 

What gets monitored gets done.

The "big" obvious numbers are important to monitor, but when you look at them they are typically already "in the books". You want your team to concentrate and be accountable daily on the "small" stats that bring about the "big" stats. How many practice owners know how many calls were made to unscheduled patients each day or overdue re-care or inactive patients? Many dentists vastly underestimate how much daily "outflow" is needed to keep a schedule full. How may dentists know what % of slots were open in their hygiene schedule each day? How many know how many NP calls there were yesterday, who scheduled and if they end up showing up? More importantly how many staff know considering it's their job to do?

The only way to monitor what gets done is with daily stats especially for your weak areas. For example, one employee should be specifically responsible for calls to patients who are unscheduled, overdue re-care or need reactivation. Other staff can and should help in coordination with the accountable employee, but that employee accountable reports daily on a spreadsheet like this: 1. # of calls or personal texts sent 2. # of contact
3. # of appointments with name and date 4. # of arrivals

It is the employee who is either making themselves valuable to you or not. If they are doing so, dismissing them will never enter your mind. On the other hand, if they are not making themselves valuable, you will be doing them and yourself a favor by giving them the opportunity to find a practice or other employment that is a better fit for them.  


What most practice owners are missing is not how to book an appointment but how to be effective leaders. The best systems in the world are useless if the staff do not comply. Good leaders know how to get staff to willingly follow through and comply. Agreement among all team members is key. Your written office policies should contain those agreements and should answer most questions staff come up with. Doing so will save you much time and simplify the management of your practice. Staff non compliance is a sure sign of poor leadership. The primary reason practices underperform is staff non compliance.  Key traits of leaders. All it takes is discipline: 

  1. Always keep a cool head especially when "under fire"
  2. Realize that all mistakes are an opportunity for you and your staff to learn.
  3. Set a good example.
  4. Always be learning.
  5. Take care of yourself.
  6. Fight the impulse to address multiple issue at the same time. Frantic activity creates spotty results.


$35.000.00 is the average fee for a one year program with dental practice management companies you are likely familiar with. For those companies that require you and your staff to travel to their facility or seminar you also need to add in the cost of travel, staff pay and lost production from time away from your practice. 

Questions You Should Ask

  1. Do you and/or your staff have to travel or does the consultant come to you?
  2. Is the program mostly one on one consulting versus seminars or courses with multiple clients in attendance? There are advantages to both.
  3. If the dental consulting is one on one who will actually deliver the consulting? I recommend knowing who your specific dental consultant will be prior to signing on the dotted line.
  4. Is program based on a specific dental practice management system? You want to avoid cookie-cutter programs. Ensure the program will be tailor-made to fit your practice's specific needs.
  5. The cost (including travel expenses and downtime) is certainly not the only factor, everything else being equal, it is still a major factor to consider. It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little.

If you do a little homework it should be fairly easy to pick a reputable consultant that is a good fit for you and your practice.