Is Your Dental Receptionist Undoing Your Treatment Diagnosis?

One of the things I hear quite often on the dental office phones is something like this:

Patient: “I need to cancel my crown appointment”

Dental Receptionist: “Oh…. That’s Ok.”

Patient: “I can’t afford to do the crown, so I’ll just have the tooth out”

Dental Receptionist: “Ok. When would you like to do that, then?”

Let’s take a look at this:

More often than not, this conversation occurs on the dental office phone with no reference by the dental receptionist to the clinical notes written by the dentist…. and as to why the patient is in need of having this crown.

When we let the patient cancel their crown appointment and have the tooth extracted, the dental receptionist is allowing the patient to self-diagnose that they will be quite OK and be able to function and chew with one less tooth.

And the dental receptionist is [subliminally] saying that the patient will be fine and there will be no untoward consequences of the patient losing the tooth.

Which we know is wrong.

And we know that the dentist has spent time with the patient at a previous appointment explaining all of the reasons why the patient needs to keep the tooth and how debilitating it will be for the patient to not have that tooth any more…

Losing a tooth should always be conveyed as a treatment of the very last resort, and not a solution that the patient would ever consider to be equal to the processes required of saving a tooth.

Often we hear this sort of assumptive diagnosis in the conversation:

We hear the dental receptionist putting, or trying to put, words into the caller’s mouth:

Dental Receptionist: “Are you experiencing any pain?”

Patient: “Yes I am”

This conversation would best be replaced by:

Dental Receptionist: “Can you tell me what you are experiencing here?”

Patient: “I’m feeling X, Y, and Z….”

Letting the caller explain what they are experiencing offers far more information than having the caller reply “Yes” or “No” to a series of prompting questions which are the agenda of the receptionist rather than the subjective experiences of the caller, and may not even be relevant.

When we ask more specifically open and probing questions on the phone we can glean a lot more information from the caller that will save the dentist a lot of unnecessary clinical toing-and-froing.

Getting back to the cancelled crown appointment…

Often appointments for significant restorative treatments are cancelled by the patient because the patient has not been educated about the VALUE and the importance of the proposed treatment, and the dental receptionist is uneducated in the importance of their own role in keeping the patient “on track” with their diagnosed treatment.

After all, the decision by the patient to have diagnosed dental treatment completed is not the same as them choosing whether or not to get a new hairdo….  The dental treatment is essential treatment that needs to be completed to improve the health of the patient.

Sadly, some front office team members are never trained regarding the vital importance of their role here.

And even worse, sometimes some front office people believe it is not their role to keep the patient on track with completing their diagnosed dental treatment….


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