In a previous blog, we outlined the steps involved in ideal, successful consultations. This is the continuation of an overview on consultations, with some of the communication skills utilized in effective consultations.
At the beginning of the consultation…
State that the patient’s dentist has referred them for a consultation because this is the preferred method of tooth replacement and then define implants as substitute tooth roots (below) and go through the 4 reasons that implants are the treatment of choice.
“Dr. Smith referred you to our office to determine whether you are a candidate for dental implants because that is the preferred method of tooth replacement.”
Definition of implants
“Dental implants are basically substitute tooth roots, providing virtually the same function as natural tooth roots; stimulating bone growth, preserving the bone & providing a stable foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel and function like natural teeth”
Implants are the treatment of choice because…
In order to understand why dental implants are the treatment of choice, patients must understand the following four advantages of implant treatment compared to other methods of tooth replacement.
“There are four important reasons that dental implants are the treatment of choice…
Dental implant treatment is the only option that preserves the bone that deteriorates when teeth are lost or removed.
Dental implant treatment is the only option that does not compromise the health of the adjacent teeth.
Dental implant treatment has the best long-term success rates of any tooth replacement option
As a result, dental implant treatment is the most cost effective method of tooth replacement.”
These four advantages of dental implants are described in detail on The Dental Implant Guide in the Why Dental Implants? section of the site. If there is Internet access in the consultation room, the information in this section of the website is an invaluable resource and visual aid for consultations.
The Patient’s Primary Concern
After explaining that the patient was referred because implant treatment is the preferred option for tooth replacement, ask open-ended questions to determine the patient’s primary concern. If you have already determined this on the initial phone call, lead with the following:
You mentioned on the phone that your primary concern is _________________. Let’s talk a little more about that…
This is an opportunity to determine the patient’s goals for overall health, appearance, and well being, so that you can present the benefits of dental implants in a way that is tailored to the individual patient.
If you didn’t ask about primary concern on the phone, lead with this question:
What is the primary concern you would like to address with dental implant treatment?
Otherwise, you can continue to explore the patient’s goals:
What are your goals for overall health, function, and appearance of your teeth and smile?
Three Steps to a Personalized Solution
1. By asking patients about primary concern, you are trying to determine how they feel about their current situation.
2. The next step is to determine their goals, because the difference between what they have and what they want is the problem you are solving with the treatment plan.
3. Once this has been determined, the benefits of dental implants can be presented as the solution that is tailored to their individual concerns.
Motivating Factors for Patients
Each implant patient has a primary concern, as well as individual goals and objectives. Often, patients will have more than one area of concern, such as health and appearance issues. Nearly every concern, or motivating factor, falls into the following four basic categories:
Health & Function
Appearance & Esthetics
Quality of Life
Cost of Treatment
Health & Function
If the patient’s concerns are health and function issues, such as wanting to be able to eat all types of food comfortably, or eliminating the discomfort of a partial, present the benefits of dental implants and explain how they solve these specific problems. Then let the patient know about the additional health benefits of implant treatment.
Overall heath for edentulous is improved when patients are able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables (nutrition) and properly digest food with implant-supported replacement teeth.
Improved function and comfort are improved by replacing a removable prosthesis with implant-supported replacement teeth.
Dental implants do not decay, thus eliminating the need for restorative treatment in the future.
A single implant-supported crown is similar to a natural tooth and therefore, it is more hygienic and easier to clean than a tooth-supported bridge, which requires a floss threader.
Implant-supported replacement teeth feel and function like natural teeth, providing the stability that is not possible with a partial or denture.
Appearance & Esthetics
When patients are most concerned about the final esthetics of the replacement tooth/teeth or the appearance of their smile, the benefits of dental implants should be presented as the most esthetic method of tooth replacement. Visual aids are extremely important for these patients, particularly photos comparing implant-supported crowns to a 3-unit bridge.
Dental implant-supported crowns and bridges look, feel, and function like natural teeth.
Dental implant-supported crowns and bridges are more esthetic long-term than tooth-supported bridges because the dental implants prevent bone resorption, or deterioration, by replacing the tooth roots.
Wrinkles are less visible when implant-supported replacement teeth maintain the integrity of facial structures.
Implant-supported replacement teeth prevent the facial structure collapse and accelerated again that occurs with dentures. Restoring the integrity of facial structures results in a more youthful, natural appearance.
Quality of Life
There are numerous quality of life issues, but the most common concerns expressed by patients are that wearing partials and dentures undermine their self-esteem and self-confidence, and limit their ability to truly enjoy all types of food.
Dental implant treatment restores self-confidence when patients can smile and laugh without worrying about unsightly metal clasps and plastic showing, or having their dentures slip or even fall out of their mouth.
When the appearance of the smile is more natural with implant-supported teeth that look like natural teeth, patients are able to smile with confidence.
Since implant-supported replacement teeth feel and function like natural teeth, patients are able to eat and enjoy all types of food.
If an upper denture is replacement with a palate-less prosthesis, the patient is able to more fully enjoy the taste of food.
Cost of Treatment
Many Implant Coordinators feel that the primary obstacle for patients is cost. While cost is often the barrier to moving forward with treatment, this is usually because they don’t perceive the true value of implant treatment – in other words, how it provides a solution to the individual concerns they have.
However, there are patients who are focused primarily on the bottom line and want the treatment option that is the least expensive. Keep in mind that what most patients really want is no dentistry at all and they don’t like to “redo” treatment, or re-treat the same tooth/teeth. In other words, most patients want the best possible long-term prognosis – and with tooth replacement, that is dental implant treatment.
These patients make a distinction between cost effectiveness long-term and. short-term out of pocket costs. For the patients wanting the most cost-effective solution over the long term, dental implant treatment is answer, even though it is not usually the lowest cost solution short-term.
One of the most effective statements to make when a patient is concerned about cost is…
Your treatment will never be less complicated or less expensive than it is today
Since this cost is such a complex issue, we will follow up on communication with patients about cost and insurance in a future blog post.
Additive vs. Subtractive Treatment
Another important consideration, particularly for Baby Boomers, is that most patients prefer to have additive rather than subtractive treatment. One of the benefits of implant dentistry is that it is actually adding something back to the oral structures, replacing tooth roots and preserving bone. Whereas, removing enamel to prep teeth for a conventional bridge is subtractive treatment. Conventional dentistry does not add anything it subtracts: bone loss, loss of tooth structure, loss of additional teeth, etc.
Effective Words & Phrases
The words you use to present treatment have an impact on patients, affecting their perception of value. The following are examples of effective words and phrases:
Implant treatment is an investment in your overall health, appearance, and well being
Dental implants maintain the integrity of facial structures
Implant treatment is more conservative and less invasive than your other options for tooth replacement
With implant treatment, there is no need to compromise the long-term health of adjacent teeth unnecessarily
Dental implant treatment is the best that dentistry has to offer