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It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It!

Posted on Oct 15, 2020 by Rhonda Savage

    Patient communication is criticalEVERY appointment has value. There are many times we devalue dentistry in our practice. Begin by eliminating the words, "just, small, only, watch and wait" But what are some other specifics?

    Don’t devalue the follow up x-ray post endodontic treatment by saying, “You only need to come back for an x-ray.” Instead try to say, “It’s really important you make your next appointment. While the x-ray and the appointment are complimentary, we need to be certain that the infection in the bone is resolved.” For every appointment, give the patient a reason to return.

    Stress urgency when it’s appropriate or necessary:

    From the doctor: “Kaitlyn, this tooth is very fragile. Be very careful until you return; avoid hard, crunchy foods; stay on soft foods and avoid temperature extremes that could irritate the nerve inside the tooth. I’d like to see you on my schedule in the next 2 weeks."

    Understand the five needs for the narrative at the time of diagnosis and document this information in the "NV"

    1. You want the patient to hear the reason for recommended treatment
    2. The front desk needs to have the reason the treatment is important
    3. Upon a request for cancellation or to reschedule, the front desk needs to have the reason to stress the importance of the existing appointment
    4. You need the narrative for insurance submission
    5. In a multi-doctor practice, the need for treatment needs to be clear, if another doctor treats

    Practice What You Say:

    Verbal skills need to be taught, practiced and reinforced. Verbal scripting is a tool for training; it's not meant to be repeated word for word. The best scripting is internalized and the essence of the message is delivered in the person’s own words.

    To train the team, create three types of verbal cue cards. Doctor(s), what do you want your team to say?

    1. Pre and post treatment explanations
    2. The advantages of the dentistry and disadvantages if the patient chooses to not complete the necessary treatment
    3. The answers to the commonly asked patient questions

    Some examples of verbal cues include the following commonly asked question:

    “How long does a crown last?”

    Answer: There are many things that make a difference in how long a crown lasts, diet, home care and theDentist speaking with patient kind of bacteria in your mouth. You will get a lot more life from a crown when you commit to flossing, brushing, and routine preventive appointments with the hygienist. Clenching or grinding will fracture porcelain and will de-bond crowns. Wearing your night guard every night is crucial!

    Another common statement from patients: "I just want my teeth cleaned. I don't want x-rays" Answer: "I understand how you feel; we've had other patients who have felt the same way. But you may not realize that x-rays aren't for us, they're for you. Without x-rays, the doctor can't let you know about your needs and you can't make decisions based on your needs, your time, or your budget. It's not the right thing to do for you; we cannot see you without x-rays."

    There are many more verbal skills that cannot be mentioned in this short article, but the bottom line is this: Focus on the patient's concerns for pain, money and the discomfort of having dentistry done. What services can you offer that will address these patient concerns and most importantly, why are these services necessary?

    Join us for a full webinar with Rhonda Savage. She will walk us through more tips on how to communicate in a way that boosts your patient satisfaction. 

    October 22nd, 2020 | 10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET | 1 CE Credit Available

    Register Now


    Rhonda Savage

    Rhonda Savage

    Rhonda Savage, DDS, CSP is an internationally known author and lecturer. She is the owner of Uptown Dental, and CEO of Savage Success, an international dental training and consulting firm. She lectures and publishes on leadership, and business management. Dr. Savage is a past President of the Washington State Dental Association, and an Affiliate Faculty Member of the University of Washington School of Dentistry. She is also a member of the Pierre Fauchard Academy, American College of Dentists, and the International College of Dentists. A former dental assistant and front office staff member for 14 years, she understands the dynamics of success in a dental team. Her understanding of leadership is deep. A dentist in private practice for over 18 years, she knows the demands of quality patient care, and leading a winning team. Dr. Savage brings a unique energy to her work. A Lieutenant Commander in the Navy during the years of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, she received the Navy Achievement Medal and an Expert Pistol Medal, earning her the nickname of "The Beast." She is a "straight shooter," aiming at the critical issues that dental practices face todya.

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