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How to answer the top 7 questions from the dental implant shopper

The most likely questions that a dental implant shopper will ask during an initial call to a dental office fall into the seven categories listed below. It is critical for the dental front desk staff to be trained and understand how to handle these delicate conversations. By knowing how to answer these questions, your staff can build a protocol within the practice to ensure financial success.

1. How much does this dental procedure cost?

2. How much time will it take for the appointment?

3. Is there a lot of pain involved?

4. How long will it take to recover?

5. Do you take same-day emergencies?

6. Can I (or I’d like to) cancel my appointment?

7. Do you take/participate with my insurance plan?

Socioeconomic factors, including but not limited to income, education, and occupation, can influence how questions are asked and received. These seven questions are the most common ones you will typically receive regarding the dental implant procedure. Follow the dialogue and tips below to avoid losing new or current patients, provide exceptional customer service, and assure that you will fill your schedule with production and collections.

Key point to remember: Your front desk/patient coordinator’s goal is to answer all questions clearly and fully without leaving any doubt in the potential patient’s mind by the end of the call.

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dental implants - man shrugging - man talking on the phone

1. How much does this dental procedure cost?

Your first question for a new patient should be, “Have you seen another dentist?” This will immediately give you an understanding that the patient has been shopping around and may have received another quote for the procedure that they are inquiring about. This quick collection of information will allow you to quote a fee or range of fees to the patient. By providing a fee for the patient, you will satisfy his or her desire for information. The key is to provide information that they are seeking, which is always a lower fee than what they may have been quoted by another dental practice.

Have a set sliding scale range of fees for various procedures in your office. For example, when the patient asks the typical cost of a dental implant, the response should be, “Mr./Mrs. John/Jane Doe, I wish I could give you an exact fee, but it’s not as simple as it may seem. Each implant is customized for each patient, so it really depends on what type of implant is suitable for your mouth. Factors that can affect price may include size of the implant, brand of implant, area of the mouth, and whether or not you need other procedures around the implant area before placement but I can tell you that we have done dental implants in our practice as low as $___ and up to $___.”

2. How much time will it take for the appointment?

A patient is usually worried about how long a procedure will take and whether or not there will be a lot of downtime from work or his or her social life. Occupations can play a major role in the patient’s decision to schedule treatment. Some patients will take time off from work, ultimately leading them to lose a day of pay. This is why we need to reassure the patient that not only will the treatment be swift and painless, but be truthful and explain that each person heals at his or her own biological time clock; some heal faster than others. Not only have you answered the question, but you have explained that this is something that cannot be determined prior to the actual treatment.

3. Is there a lot of pain involved?

To answer this correctly, never say “yes” and never say “no.” Explain to the patient that each individual’s tolerance of pain is something you cannot predict. Biological factors play a key role in pain tolerance, and therefore everyone handles each procedure differently. There are many triggers that cause this question to arise, such as a past dental experience or traumatic childhood dental visit. By answering this question directly, you can mislead the patient and potentially lose the patient’s trust within the practice and risk damaging the dentist/patient dentist relationship.

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4. How long will it take to recover?

This depends on the procedure being performed, but try to be as vague as possible. The worst thing you can do is put an exact time frame on recovery. Daily routine and habits, following postop instructions, and even biologics can play a factor in the actual time necessary for each individual’s recovery. Age, medical history, postoperative activities, and other factors play an important role in the healing process.

5. Do you take same-day emergencies?

Yes! Every staff member who answers the telephone must be able to say yes, we do accept emergencies, but it’s not as simple as saying the “yes” that gets the patient through your door. Your first answer should always be “yes,” but the next should be a simple question: “What time are you available today?” It is at this point that you can determine where to fit the patient into your schedule that same day. Look at your schedule immediately and see if it’s feasible to fit the patient in at the time he or she is requesting.

6. Can I (or I’d like to) cancel my appointment?

Many patients may have worries and sometimes inner fears or financial concerns when deciding to cancel an appointment. To help avoid the possibility of appointment cancellations, it is recommended to collect a deposit prior to scheduling the patient’s appointment. Explain that the deposit is necessary for you to order custom materials, which help offset the cost to the practice. These materials are patient-specific and usually cannot be used for other patients. This can help to explain the collection of money for a procedure that is not being done the same day. It is also a good idea to have the patient sign a written financial agreement, which explains in detail that materials will be ordered and hold the patient to a nonrefundable fee to secure the ordering of materials and the time allotted for the appointment. By taking this approach, patients will think twice about whether to cancel or keep their appointments.

7. Do you take/participate with my insurance plan?

Regardless whether your office accepts PPO insurance plans or not, the office staff should always answer this question with this exact verbiage: “Yes, we will accept your insurance plan toward payment; of course, some plans have maximums and limitations, but we will always maximize your insurance plan to its greatest ability. You will always know what, if any, out-of-pocket cost you would have prior to any procedure being performed. Always mention that some procedures may or may not be covered. By answering this question in this way, you make the patient aware of the possibility of out-of-pocket expenses and at the same time gain his or her trust while hoping to minimize actual expenses. This opens the door to a scheduled appointment.

Kyle L. Summerford Kyle L. Summerford is CEO and founder of Summerford Solutions, Inc. and editorial director of PennWell’s Dental Assisting and Office Manager Digest e-newsletter. Mr. Summerford is a professional speaker and author, focusing on topics such as increasing practice revenue and staff efficiency training. Visit ddsguru.com with inquiries regarding his dental practice efficiency services.

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