Three Important Phrases That Increase Treatment Acceptance

One of the most frustrating aspects of dentistry is to go to great lengths to explain treatment needs only to have patients walk out the door without scheduling. Dentists and teams often wonder what else is needed. The answer is that most practices can do better with less: less meaning less time spent explaining treatment with words that fail to build value.

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If you want to make your treatment presentations even more effective, toss out the clinical terminology in favor of three important phrases. First, make sure patients understand they have a cavity. Saying decay is not the same as using the term cavity. When patients understand they have a cavity, most are motivated to do something about it, and that is why emphasizing the word cavity will boost treatment acceptance.

Secondly, when a tooth looks suspect for future treatment, do not tell patients you are watching the tooth. Watching implies passivity (think about how little energy it takes to watch something), and patients quickly forget the tooth in question was ever mentioned. In place of a watch, let patients know you are going to reevaluate the tooth at their next visit. Patients will remember that a tooth needs reevaluation as this implies something may require treatment down the road. It’s far easier to transition from reevaluating a tooth to recommending treatment as opposed to watching the tooth and then trying to convince the patient that treatment is needed. Use reevaluate instead of watch.

Finally, when patients have gum disease, do not tell them they have perio or that they require a special type of cleaning—this terminology confuses patients and undermines treatment recommendations. Instead, let patients know they have gum disease. Too many patients walk out the door failing to understand they have gum disease because clinical teams tip toe around using those words. If you expect patients to pay for a service that is considerably more money and time consuming than a regular cleaning, you need to build value for the service. Patients are motivated to address gum disease.


You can greatly improve treatment acceptance by using far fewer clinical terms in favor of words that patients understand. Understanding builds trust, and trust will lead to a busier schedule.

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