How to ‘sell’ preventive procedures to patients without being pushy

Whether you’re the doctor, hygienist or assistant, you’ve probably experienced this before. A patient comes into the office with the same issues over and over; their gums bleed from lack of proper brushing or flossing, or they can’t seem to make it through a year without a filling.

Yet they’re never willing to take advantage of the products or procedures you offer that could prevent these problems all together. And since you didn’t go to years of schooling to be a salesperson—you went to be a dental professional—you don’t feel comfortable pushing it it. After all, you don’t want to scare them to the practice down the street.

But, unlike the pushy telemarketers who call at all hours or the acquaintance that just started selling the latest and greatest in kitchen gadgetry, you’re not selling to patients for your personal benefit. You simply want to take the best care of them you can, and that is the key to successful “selling.”

To help patients accept preventive procedures without feeling guilty for pushing them into it, try this easy three-step approach.

Identify the issues (without being accusatory)

As a patient’s trusted dental advisor, you’re the one who must convince them they have a problem. Start this conversation with some questions like “Have you been experiencing more sensitivity than normal?” or “Do you ever have difficulty reaching your far back molars when you brush?” These questions can lead to them telling you some of their own problems with or fears about their dental health without feeling put on the spot. Then you can say you’ve also noticed these same symptoms during their appointments, indicating how you saw them (bleeding during scaling, cringing during prophylaxis, etc.) and how you’ve noticed they haven’t improved with time.

Explain how the issues can lead to bigger problems (and larger costs)

Once your patient has come to terms that they have an issue, then it’s time to explain why they don’t need to continue living with it. Make sure to have ways to refute their “But it’s been like this for years” or “If it isn’t really broke, why fix it?” arguments. For example, if someone has chronic sensitivity that they’re just “putting up with” explain that over time it will get worse and go from something they can “put up with” to something that makes eating and drinking a painful nightmare. The takeaway here is for your patient to understand no dental issues can be left alone without consequence—they will only get worse (and more expensive).

Suggest the best procedure for treatment—and explain why you’re suggesting it

Once in agreement with your patient that a preventable problem exists, you should suggest the best product or procedure to prevent the problem from reoccurring. Thoroughly (and in plain language) explain how the product works in terms of use or application and how it will treat the issue and prevent worse problems from occurring. For instance, a patient who is on the verge of having full-blown gingivitis would benefit from using a Chlorhexidine Gluconate Rinse. A bottle of rinse to use at home is relatively inexpensive and would help reduce and prevent future gum health issues at a more affordable cost than treatment for advanced gum disease.

At the end of the day some patients will simply never accept preventive treatment. That’s their right. However, the majority of patients will be open to these treatments once they understand you simply want what’s best for the dental health—and their budget.

So just remember—identify, explain and suggest!