Six Powerful Ideas to Ramp Up Your Treatment Acceptance

Linda Drevenstedt, RDH, MS


Years ago, my first boss, a Pankey Institute instructor, taught me that to win a patient’s trust and acceptance of his extensive treatment plan, he needed to use an approach that involved the whole person: body, mind, and emotions. Psychology Today says these decisions are 80% driven by emotion. 

Three other factors also influence how your patients process information:

  • Visual—they need to see information.
  • Auditory—they must hear information in clear vocabulary.
  • Kinesthetic—they need to touch or experience the information.

According to a Lake Superior University study, visual information drives 65% of the decision-making process, with auditory at 30%, followed by kinesthetic.

All of these influences together contribute to better connections with your patients. Keeping all 6 factors in mind can ramp up your treatment acceptance.

Your Approach

It may be perfectly obvious to you when a patient’s condition needs to be treated. But, remember that the first human response when bad news is presented is denial.

Your patients primarily process your treatment information via your visual presentations. Your intraoral photos are imperative. When your patients see what’s going on inside their mouths, which is part of their body, it affects how they feel and what they will decide.

You also are speaking to them, which covers the auditory input that is essential to case acceptance. While you show them the photos, explain the condition that needs to be treated. Ask your patients how they feel about discovering these issues in their mouth. Questions require involvement and lead the patients into their emotions. Always ask questions rather than just telling patients about their mouth.

And, allow patients to hold a full-color, enlarged photo as you discuss treatment. When patients hold their photo, it transfers the information from out there on your computer and into their own hands—a kinesthetic step. This invites your patients, without words, to own the condition. Your discussion, then, has personal meaning.

The Process

The following 4-step formula puts all 6 concepts to work for you and helps you keep it simple:

  • Problem—Communicate in vocabulary that a seventh grader can understand. State the specific problem the patient has and hand a picture to the patient illustrating the problem as you explain it. Ask your patients how they feel about the problem and if they would like you to outline your recommended solution. By asking permission, you are not “selling,” you are problem solving with your patient as a partner.
  • Solution—Present the solution with pictures of how you have solved this problem for other patients. Choose pictures that aren’t too graphic. For example, do not show a screw in the bone for an implant. Many patients don’t really know what a crown is, so have a picture of a broken-down tooth and then the crown on the tooth. Don’t go into details or graphic explanations. Ask your patients how they feel about the solution. Appeal to their emotions as you proceed. Your patients are either psychologically tuned into gaining something from their dental investment, or they are tuned into avoiding something with a dental investment. Include both in your treatment discussion.
  • Benefit—What will the patient gain or benefit from completing the treatment? This is where you build the value for the patient’s investment. Patients look for benefits like a beautiful smile, better chewing functionality, a youthful appearance, and better health. They also want to keep their teeth.
  • Repercussions—The avoiders need to hear about the repercussions of declining treatment, such as lost teeth, systematically spread infections, an aging smile, pain, and continued breakdown of teeth and functionality. Dread is a powerful motivator.

Before discussing finances, be sure to stop and ask your patients how they will feel once the treatment is complete and they have a new smile, better function, or the loss of infection. Use their top concerns or desires to secure the emotional component as you ask the question.

Patients make decisions about their treatment by using a complex system with their body, mind, and emotions. Patients take in and process the information you are giving them using auditory, visual, and kinesthetic communication. Learn more about these 6 concepts, and you will ramp up your treatment acceptance. For more information, email me and I will send you a reading list.

Ms. Drevenstedt’s experience spans 20 years and includes “in the trenches” experience as a dental hygienist, dental assistant, and group practice administrator. She has a master’s degree in healthcare administration and a bachelor’s degree in business. As a speaker, consultant, and author, her “Steel Magnolia” approach is honest and straightforward with a spoonful of sugar. Also, she is one of Dentistry Today’s 2017 Leaders in Dental Consulting. She and her team of 4 consultants help grow practices and people from coast to coast. She can be reached at

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