Increase Case Acceptance by Listening More to Your Patients

By: Elizabeth Kidder DDS
This topic originally appeared on Dr. Kidder gave igniteDDS permission to share with our readers.

The first few years after dental school are pretty difficult, and most dentists feel lost. It’s the time you have to turn that theoretical part of your studies into practical work, without having a mentor to ask for help as in dental school.

And it’s not easy for any of us, sometimes you are not ready to treat your first patients comprehensively on your own. With time, you learn from experience, but education doesn’t stop when you graduate.

There are a lot courses, new trainings, and great educators from whom you can learn a lot, even some techniques and tips that dental school didn’t teach you sometimes. These will help you to improve your clinical cases and increase your case acceptance.

Despite having all the clinical skills, a key factor to success is also communication with the patients to understand what they really want. 

Finding Your Way in Dentistry

I am a bread and butter general dentist. However, my favorite cases are the ones that have the capacity to change someone’s smile, to make them not only healthier and more beautiful, but most importantly, improve their confidence.

Once I gained these skills I wanted to implement them into my practice as soon as possible, but unfortunately I tripped over a few stumbling blocks before I found the right way to do that.

I remember one particular patient I had who really could have benefitted from some esthetic dentistry. I spent hours mounting the case, cropping and organizing photos, even waxing up anterior teeth on a model to show him the dramatic esthetic improvement I could make to his smile. That patient was engaged and listened to everything I had to say.

He came back for his second consult, asked questions, but at the end of the day never pursued treatment. I learned a valuable lesson in that case and numerous others. When I stopped presenting the treatment I thought patients needed and instead let them tell me what they wanted, I started closing cases.

As a part of my comprehensive exam, after the radiographs, the periodontal probings, the hard and soft tissue exam, and often clinical photography, I simply ask the patient,

“Is there anything about the way your teeth look that you would like to change?”

When we ask patients what they really want, we can drastically improve our case acceptance. 

Surprisingly, this one sentence has transformed my practice. The answers often surprise me. Countless patients with chipping, crowded, discolored teeth respond without hesitation, “Nope!” and many others with what I think are quite lovely smiles respond with a laundry list of things they would like changed.  

Transforming Your Dental Practice

Now that I wait for patients to tell me what they want, I no longer waste time on case work-ups that never turn into productive treatment. And because I found a way to zero in on the cases that I like doing the most, I have transformed my practice into one where I get to do more of the procedures that give me a higher level of satisfaction and happen to also be quite profitable.  

What Does Your Dream Practice Look Like?

First, figure out what your dream practice looks like.

I think the best way to do this is to pursue high-quality continuing dental education, get a great foundation in comprehensive dentistry, and find the areas you like most.  

Figure Out How to Do Those Things

Second, figure out how to do more of those things. Find ways to give patients permission to ask you for that treatment. If you love treating TMD, allow patients to uncover problems that will get them excited about the treatment you can provide to alleviate their pain. If you love seeing infants with tongue-ties, include questions on your new patient paperwork about breastfeeding. If you love placing implants, make sure your patients know you can provide them with long-term solutions for missing or hopeless teeth.  

Now that’s not to say that all I do all day is esthetic dentistry. I do plenty of posterior composites and single-unit crowns. However, having some challenging esthetic cases in progress, the ones that give me a lot of gratification and really do change lives make dentistry so much more enjoyable.  

Define Your Dream Practice & Eventually, You May Find Yourself Living It

If you love continuing education, I’ve always sought new courses, new educators, and new techniques. But for me, the most impactful educational experience was taking Essentials Series courses at The Pankey Institute.

I am now a faculty member at Pankey and would love to see you there.

Dr. Elizabeth Kidder

Dr. Elizabeth Kidder

Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Kidder grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and attended Marquette University for her undergraduate studies. She graduated from The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry in 2006 and completed a one-year residency in general dentistry at the VA hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After practicing for ten years, Dr. Liz sold her practice in Minnesota and moved to Baton Rouge to be with her husband, Dr. Dustin Kidder. Dr. Liz is a member of a number of dental organizations: Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association, Louisiana Dental Association, Greater Baton Rouge Dental Association, LD Pankey Alumni Association. She is also a member of the Capital Study Club, a local group of dentists and dental specialists that meet monthly for continuing education and fellowship. Their mantra is excellence in clinical dentistry and growth through collaboration. She is a visiting faculty member for the LD Pankey Institute, a non-profit organization committed to the continuing education of dentists focusing on relationship-based, comprehensive dentistry, and speaks at dental meetings around the country on various topics including esthetic dentistry, sleep-disordered breathing and helping young dentists define their goals and career paths. She loves all things flowers and is a licensed florist in the state of Louisiana. Her favorite vacation spot is her family cabin in Northern Wisconsin, but she loves being home in BR with Dustin, their son Sam, and their two golden retrievers, Bear and Leo.