If you were to ask several dentists about what procedures they do recommend in case of tooth loss, most would probably tell you: dental implants. I guess we all agree about the multiple advantages of implants over bridges or removable prosthesis. We can say it is a no-brainer.
Yet, this tooth replacement therapy is somehow the most difficult to propose because most patients are quite scared of the whole implant procedure. To be honest, I perfectly understand the fears from a procedure that look like a really invasive and brutal process. But we know that our patients don’t need to worry, this procedure may look scary but with today’s tools, it is almost painless and easy as ABC.
The thing is we need to educate our patients and present dental implants in layman terms so that they can make an informed decision.
So, to make the discussion with the patient easier, I usually follow some predetermined guidelines that help me to be concise, focused and to get the most of my patients’ attention, which is the case for almost any procedures I need to explain.
Our goal is to make sure we have the full attention of our patients, that’s why I like to follow 4 simple steps.
Once it is obvious dental implants are the way to go for a patient, I explain what this option is about in 4 steps.
In my opinion, the best way to explain a dental implant is to use the analogy of a natural tooth.
A natural tooth has 2 parts: the crown which is visible above the gum line and the root which anchors the tooth through the gum. When you lose a tooth, you lose those 2 elements. To fill the gap, you have the option to either replace only the crown part or both (crown and root). Dental implants enable to replace both because it has a root and a crown. The root, usually made of titanium, is screwed into the jawbone. After 2-4 months, the bone around the root will fuse to it: this will ensure your new tooth is tightly fixed to your jawbone. After this process called integration, an abutment will be placed into the root and will protrude up trough the gum line, and then a crown will be placed on this abutment in the final phase.
I like to keep things simple and don’t go into details about the immediate loading, the titanium vs zirconia etc, my aim is to let the patient have a general understanding of the procedure to start with. Note that I often suggest my patients to get more information on some other websites that deal with dental implants. There are tons of it. One that I like is beautysetter. It is a new general website about plastic surgery and dentistry, run by a friend of mine so I am a bit biased. For those who prefer tumblr, beautysetter.com also has one.
The reason why I kept asking my patients to check information on other websites is simple; I want my patients to know that there is nothing to hide and that they can then get back to me to ask any questions they want. this a good way to build trust. Of course, there is always the risk that your patient might pick another dentist, but if they do, it simply means I need to work on some other parts of my “package”.
Right after the definition/ procedure, I know the pain is a concern I want to deal with quickly so I can keep my patient focused on the following parts of my mini “presentation” because this pain issue can create a mental block that can prevent the patient from being totally focused on me.
Dental implant surgery is a quick, outpatient procedure that can be performed under local anaesthesia so, it will be as painless and comfortable as possible. If you are really stressed, just keep in mind we have several additional conscious sedation techniques.
Once the pain issue is resolved and your patient is all ears, you can list the 4 main benefits that make implants such a perfect choice.
– Dental implants totally replace the root and the crown of the tooth you lost.
– It avoids premature bone loss by keeping your jawbone stimulated in the missing tooth area, and also maintains the integrity of the surrounding teeth.
– You don’t need to change your dental care routine, as implants behaves exactly like normal tooth
– Implants will often last a lifetime which is not always the case with bridges or partials etc….
Once you gave those 4 main benefits, you can talk about the cost which is the main con.. but you can do it with confidence because the cost will be better accepted owing to those advantages.
I don’t talk about prices in the beginning because if I do, the patient won’t even listen to you any longer, the price should not be a focal point that will shut your patient’s ears…. That’s why, in my opinion, prices should be given at the end.
Here again, we know patients will check prices elsewhere, so I show patients articles about what dental implants costs, that give the range of implant prices. Here again, you can show a chart you made but I prefer a document or a website made by a third party.
This range of prices enables me to explain to my patients why I am not the cheapest dentist (I prefer to discuss the price issue right form the start so that the patient won’t be surprised if he or she gets cheaper quotations with other fellow dentists… If you don’t, chances are the patient won’t come back…)
Here comes your pitch about your years of experience, the material you use, your services etc…. you can also propose the payment options you can offer, the packages etc….
The secret is in my humble opinion to anticipate the patient’s issues or questions and make sure your patient is always in relaxed state of mind, which fosters full understanding.
I strongly believe in direct, honest and clear communication, this is the best way to establish excellent relationships with your patients and create loyalty.