Benefit Language


You are struggling to get your patient to want the treatment that they need.  The patient puts off or makes excuses about beginning treatment.

Desired Result:

The patient to go ahead with your treatment recommendations. To willingly schedule and make a financial commitment to proceed with treatment.

How To:

So that your patients want the treatment that they need, train yourself to use benefit language. Benefit language is a learned skill. It requires the ability to create benefit/feature statements that link the patient wants to their needs. Benefit/feature statements let another person know the advantage(s) of taking action. It helps people be open to concepts or ideas they may be otherwise closed to.

The formula for a benefit / feature statement is:

They are used:

  • To motivate others to see value in a request or guideline
  • To help someone be open to listening to information
  • To personalize advantages the patient will receive

It is critical that the benefit be stated first, prior to the procedure or the logical features of your recommendation. This feels awkward initially, as we are accustomed to stating our request and then justifying it with facts. Try using the “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me) technique. Visually tattoo WIIFM on your patient’s forehead as you present treatment. Using benefit/feature statements and answering the What’s In It For Me question for your patients, allows them to understand why this treatment solves their problem.

  1. Listen for the patient “want” (benefit). Common benefits are to save money, save time, improve their appearance, and to avoid pain.
  2. Match it with the recommended dental procedure.
  3. Now, state the logic or features that support your choice of dental procedure. Answer the question “Why / How does this treatment achieve the benefit the patient wants?”
    Example: So that we can help you maintain the youthful appearance that is important to you, I would recommend whitening your smile.  Whitening would be perfect for you since it will give you the brighter, younger looking smile you want
  4. Many people also find that stories of other patients or your own personal experiences help increase understanding and give the patient time to process the information you are providing. In this case it might be something like; “We had a patient, Mary, who told us that after she had whitened her teeth she was out to lunch with her sister who commented she looked much more vibrant. Her sister was certain she had tried some kind of procedure at her dermatologist and could not believe it was whitening that made such an immediate difference!”

The Patient is Denied Credit by Your Financial Partner


You offered your financial option of working with an outside partner such as Care Credit, to provide long term interest free payments on their dental treatment and the patient’s application was denied.

Desired Result:

The financial administrator feels confident discussing the denial process.  She/he is able to offer assistance and an explanation without causing embarrassment to the patient.

How To:

Although we all wish that every patient qualified for patient financing, the reality is that some applications are not approved. When that occurs, patients typically want to understand why — and that may make team members unsure of how to respond. Here are some points of information you can use to confidently talk with patients in a positive, helpful manner.

  1. Patients will receive a letter within 10 days from the issuing bank, regarding the reasons for the decision and the source of information used.
  1. The credit decision is based on a number of factors, and applicable law limits what the financing company can share with your practice. If your patient wants to speak with a representative, refer them to the Cardholder Support Center and provide them with the toll free number.
  1. Sometimes an application is not approved simply due to a “typo” or missing information on the application.
  • Review the application with the patient to check for any data entry errors, such as misspellings.
  • Make sure the patient has included a complete street address, not a post office box (P.O.) number.
  • Check that the patient has included all sources of income.
  1. You can also suggest that the patient re-apply with a co-applicant or have a family member apply on their behalf. In many cases, this may result in an approval.

How to Say It

Here is a sample script to use as a guideline when talking to a patient about an application that was not approved:

“Unfortunately, our financing partner was not able to extend you credit at this time. You will receive a letter from the issuing bank within 7 – 10 business days, indicating the specific reason for the decision. Applying with a credit-worthy co-applicant is a good way to increase your chances of approval.”

Preventing and Handling Late Patients


The patient arrives more than 10 minutes late for a scheduled appointment.

Desired Result:

The patient receives the care that they need and the practice does not inconvenience another patient by running behind.

How to:

Before we can address the late patient issue, we must first make sure that we as a practice are not training our patient to arrive late because of regularly running behind and not seating patients within 10 minutes of the scheduled appointment time. If we do not respect our patient’s time, it is difficult for us to address the late patient arrival effectively.

As a team, analyze your procedure times and identify causes of running behind. You must make staying within the scheduled time frame a priority. If you are 10 minutes behind or more acknowledge the delay, and give the patient an approximate wait time. The more cordial and caring you are in addressing this with the patient, the more likely the patient will be considerate with you.

“Mrs. Jones, I am aware that your appointment today was for 11:00 am. Unfortunately, Dr. Robert’s assistant just informed me that he will need some extra time with his patient. We should be seating you in about 10 minutes. Can I offer you something to drink while you wait?  Thank you so much for your patience!”

As a good will gesture, follow up with the patient by sending a handwritten note thanking them for graciously waiting to be seen. If you feel it is appropriate include a gift card to a local coffee shop as a token of your appreciation.

When a patient is late:

  • Notify the clinical team to determine if the patient can still be seen for their regular appointment.
  • Try to at least see the patient for a quick check, even if they need to be re-appointed for the original procedure.

“Tina, we were worried about you, I’m glad you’re here.  I hope everything is o.k.” Empathize with the patient’s reason for being late.  “I’m sorry traffic was so terrible, I know it can really get bad at this time of day.  Let me check in back to see if they have the quality time that they need for this procedure.”  If the answer is no… “Tina, in order to devote enough time to what we had originally scheduled for today, we will need to schedule another appointment.”

  • Once you see a pattern developing with a late patient, say something like the following:

“Tina, we need your help.  We would like to discuss how you could help us stay on schedule with your treatment, as well as your patient appointments. Can you tell me what might be preventing you from being on time?  Maybe you and I can come up with some solutions that could work.”

  • When a patient is late and they are too young to be responsible for getting themselves to the office, it is important to communicate directly with the responsible party. Many children are embarrassed and have no control over the situation.

Gathering Patient Testimonials


Everyday we work with patients we hear compliments about the dentistry, the doctor, the team or the facility. Use these opportunities to gather testimonials and build a library of quotes and stories about your patients’ experiences. These can go a long way in helping others decide to choose you for their dental needs.

When a patient says something nice about the practice ask them “May I quote you on that?” and then inform them that you are gathering testimonials to use on your website and in your practice brochure. You may also want to prepare a reception area testimonial book and include them on any video presentations you may play in the reception area or in the operatories.

Target patients that would be good candidates to give you a recommendation and ask them if they would be willing to share their story with your potential patients. If they agree to do so, inform them that you’ll send an email with a testimonial request. Download a Microsoft Word Testimonial Authorization Form .

How to:

  • Sample email to a patient whom you’ve asked to write a testimonial:

Dear [Patient],

Working with patients like you makes my dental practice a great joy! Thank you for agreeing to provide a testimonial. Your story will help inform our potential patients why it’s good to work with us and how they can benefit.

To help you get started, I’ve included a few questions, but please feel free to write whatever you like.

(Include some questions, using the list below as a guide.)

Thank you for your time and kind support. We value your business and look forward to caring for you again in the future. Please let me know if there is anything further I can do for you.

  • Sample email to a patient asking if you may quote them for a testimonial:

Dear [Patient],

Thank you for taking the time to express your kind comments to me. Your praise brightened my day and patients like you make everything I do worthwhile.

With your permission, I would like to share your thoughts with potential patients. Your words will help them to understand how they can benefit from working with us, and why they should do so. Do I have your permission?

Thank you again for your business, and please let me know if there’s anything further I can do for you.

  • Sample email asking for a testimonial:

Dear [Patient],

I hope all is well. Because I value you as a patient, I would appreciate your feedback. With your permission, I would like to use your comments as a testimonial on our website and in our practice brochure.

To help you get started, I’ve included a few questions, but please feel free to write whatever you would like.

(Include some questions, using the list below as a guide.)

Thank you for your time, and thanks again for your business. Please let me know if there’s anything further I can do for you.

Of course, most of your patients are busy people who don’t have much time set aside for tasks like this. That’s why it’s your job to make it easier for them. One way to do this is to provide them with a few sample questions in your testimonial request email. Here are a few that you might want to put to use:

  1. How do you feel about your dental work? How does this compare with dental work you’ve had in the past?
  2. How do you feel about the way you’ve been treated here in our office? How does this compare with other offices you’ve been to?
  3. What problems were you experiencing before you came in? How were these resolved? How do you now feel about your dental health?
  4. How affordable are our services? How does this compare with other offices you’ve visited?
  5. Do you have any other comments about your dental care or our office?

Whenever a patient provides a testimonial, don’t forget to send them a kind thank-you note. A personal handwritten note is best and a thank-you gift may even be a good idea in some circumstances. The goal is to make your patients feel that they’ve done a good thing, while also keeping your business in their minds so that they’ll provide referrals in the future.

Handling Emergency Patients


Caring for emergency patients and not causing the scheduled patients to run behind or feel like they are not the priority.

Desired Result:

Emergency patients seen on the day they call and the patients on the schedule that day feel a consistent high level of care and excellence.

How To:

  1. Identify the type of emergencies commonly seen in your practice.  Sensitive to Hot or Cold, Broken Tooth, etc…
  2. Determine the provider coding of doctor time and assistant time for each type of emergency.  For example: the patient may be seated and the assistant will spend the first 10 minutes of the appointment taking an x-ray intra-oral photos of the problem tooth, and interviewing the patient.  The doctor spends 10 minutes getting the patient out of pain and prescribing the needed appointment.
  3. The dental assistant reviews the daily schedule and determines the best place to work in emergency time at the morning huddle, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. These are the natural breaks in the schedule or where you know you have an operatory available and the Doctor is able to modify the schedule to accommodate the emergency patient.
  4. Do not hold or block emergency time unless you routinely see 3 or more emergencies per day. You may want to hold time on Monday after the weekend or a vacation, or Friday before the start of the weekend or a vacation, if you see more emergency calls on these days.
  5. Provide palliative care whenever possible, do not “over treat” the emergency, unless you have open time in the appointment book you are trying to fill. Analyze the situation, prescribe any additional needed radiograph(s) or photos, get the patient out of pain, prescribe any medication necessary and reschedule for the needed treatment or refer the patient to a specialist.
  6. When a patient calls with an emergency, offer the two times that have been determined:

    Mrs. Smith, I am sorry to hear you are having a problem. Doctor will want to see you right away. He has emergency time today at 10:20 or at 1:50. Which would you prefer?

  7. If the emergency time has already been taken by other patients, ask the patient to come right over, so that you can work them into the schedule:

    Mrs. Smith, I know that the doctor will want see you right away, please come right over and I will do my best to work you in to the schedule. We do have a full day of patients so please understand that there will be a wait.

  8. Avoid offering the patient the end of the day as an option. This trains your patients to say that they have an emergency to get a “prime time” after work/school appointment.

Telephone Etiquette


The person who answers the phone in your practice plays a crucial role. They must multi-task, sound pleasant and happy, have enthusiasm and joy in their voice and love working with people. This attitude ensures patients understand it can be enjoyable and fun at the dental office.

How To:

SMILE!! You are on the phone! People hear your smile or lack of a smile when you answer the phone. Your tone tells them if you are busy or if you are focused on the person at the other end of the line.  Here are seven tips on telephone etiquette.

  1. Studies show the majority of people prefer to hear a live voice on the other end of the line when they call.  Answer the phone by the 3rd ring.
  2. Have a mirror posted where you can see it as you answer the phone. Use the mirror to check on your attitude and smile!!
  3. Say “thank-you” at the beginning of your call. “Thank-you for calling Dental Smiles, my name is Jody, I can help you!”
  4. When you answer the phone be happy, warm, energetic, and enthusiastic. The person that answers the phone sets the tone for the practice.
  5. Hang up last. No one likes the sound of “click” in their ear. The caller might think you were in a hurry to get rid of them and go on to the next patient.
  6. Train everyone on your team to answer the phone in the same way. Assign primary responsibility for answering the phone. When the phone rings more than twice, on the third ring someone else will be responsible for answering.
  7. Watch your intonation and make sure everyone who answers the phone sounds confident and enthusiastic. If you sound stressed and busy, patients will not refer to your practice.

We know that the phone only rings when someone is at the desk trying to check out and you are on hold with an insurance company on another line.  Answering the phone in the practice can be challenging and frustrating.  Here are our recommendations regarding the hold button:

  • Do handle the patient that is first, first. If someone is checking out complete the transaction before answering the phone. If you are on the phone finish with the caller prior to handling the patient. Best case, your team is cross-trained and someone else can check the patient out.
  • Don’t answer the phone with a “Hold Please” – it sounds like you are too busy. Greet the caller the same way you always answer the phone and let them tell you why they are calling. Then ask if they would prefer to hold or if they would prefer you to call them back.
  • If you put the patient on hold, do so for as short a time as possible. 30-45 seconds is the maximum most people withstand. If they hold longer, you will notice a change in their attitude, and it’s not for the better.
  • Try this experiment: Find a clock with a second hand or time yourself on your smartphone. Sit and do nothing for 2 minutes, out of view of the clock or phone. Then glance at the timer. As long as the wait seemed, you probably did not come close to 2 minutes. It is frustrating to be on hold, especially for our time conscious society.
  • If you really cannot answer the phone, have your rollover set to the 4th ring so the caller will get a voicemail that sounds something like this:

“Thank-you for calling Dental Smiles, this is Jody, your call is important to me. I am assisting other patients at the moment and would be happy to call you back within the hour if you leave your contact information after the tone.  I’ll look forward to talking with you soon!”

  • If you say you will call them back, then call them back within the hour. Know how your phone system notifies you of messages during business hours and follow up with the calls.


Collection Letters


You have attempted to call the patient and collect on the past due balance.  The patient has not responded to your phone calls.  Approximately 2 weeks has past since the balance was due.

This letter series will not correspond to your billing/statement cycle.  The idea is to catch the past due balance as soon as it is past due by reviewing your accounts receivable aging report. Don’t keep sending statements, it may inadvertently send the message that the practice due dates are not actual deadlines.

Desired Result:

Patient to contact the office to set up an arrangement or to be turned over to collections prior to the balance aging to 90 days old.

How To:

We recommend sending a series of 3 letters, each spaced more or less than 2 business weeks apart. The idea is to determine how the patient wants to handle their financial obligation or get them to a collection agency.  Here are some sample letters to adapt to your needs:

Letter 1: We have been waiting for payment on your account, perhaps it was an oversight on your part. I know how things can get busy for us all. Your current balance is $___________ insurance has paid their portion.  Please contact us at the office (123-456-7890) within the next 10 days to arrange how you will handle payment of your balance.


Letter 2: In our letter dated ____________, we kindly requested that you call the office to arrange for payment of your balance due.

Please understand I do not like collection agencies. They cost us money, hurt your credit standing and give the patients the idea it’s us against them.  We would like to do everything we can to avoid turning your account over to a collection agency. I want to help you meet your financial obligations to our practice in a way that is considerate of your financial situation.

You are a valued member of our practice. Please contact me in the next 10 days regarding your balance.  We have several new options available to patients who need to make smaller monthly payments over a longer period of time.

I encourage you to contact me by (date) to work out a financial arrangement.  Thank-you.

Letter 3: Sent registered mail, return receipt requested. Scan the receipt into the patient chart.

We have attempted to call you and have sent previous letters to this address. Your account is seriously past due. The total payment due on the account is $_______________. We have been waiting for payment since ____________.

If we do not receive your payment of $______________ by (10 days from date letter is sent) your account will be sent to the collection agency “XYZ”.  Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

Dismissal Letter: Sent after patient has been turned over to a collection agency. Send the letter registered mail, return receipt requested.  Scan the receipt into the chart.

This letter is to inform you of the need to sever our professional relationship due to the financial problems with your account. As of 45 days from the receipt of this letter we will no longer care for you as a patient in this office. I have included a listing from the yellow pages of area dentists for your use. We will continue to see you on an emergency basis until the end of the 45-day period.

Should you wish to return to this practice as a patient and renew your relationship with us, it will be necessary for you to pay all past due balances and any costs associated with your account being sent to the collection agency. Any future treatment would be on a cash only basis. Please contact Mary, our financial administrator, if you are interested in this option.

Preventing New Patient “No Shows”


Preventing New Patient “No Shows.”

Desired Result:

The patient shows up on time, prepared with their paperwork and “wowed” by the practice, so that they refer their friends and family.

How To:

The appointment coordinator reviews the schedule for any new patient appointment and prepares a call list for the doctor. The doctor makes a personal phone call, the day before the appointment, to personally welcome them to the practice and offers to answer any questions or concerns they may have about the paperwork or the appointment.

It might sound like this:

“Hello Mrs. Jones, this is Dr. Tim Johnson. I am calling to let you know that I am looking forward to meeting you tomorrow at 2 pm. I am reviewing the notes that Kim gave me to prepare for your visit, and wanted to offer any assistance with the medical and dental history forms we asked you to complete prior to your visit.”

If you are leaving a message, leave your number for them to call with any question.

“Please feel free to call me at 888-123-4567, and I will see you tomorrow.”

The patient is impressed that the dentist took the time to call and welcome them to the practice. The patient is not only reminded of the appointment but feels a commitment to your practice. You have already begun to develop a caring and trusting relationship with the new patient. You have let them know that you prepare for the visit and that the paperwork is an important part of the appointment. The patient will most likely mention to a family member, friend or work colleague the phone call they received from you and how welcoming everything about your practice has been!

Oral Cancer Examination


Patients not realizing that you perform a critical examination at every hygiene visit – The Oral Cancer Screening. This is a cancer with a high death rate. Not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development. Don’t let one of your patients become a death rate statistic because they do not show up regularly for their hygiene visits.

Desired Result:

To encourage patients to keep their scheduled hygiene appointments, we recommend your patients understand how important the “routine” head, neck and soft tissue examination is to their health and wellbeing. This cancer is no longer only prevalent in older males with a history of smoking. Because the cancer has been conclusively linked to the sexually transmitted HPV viral infection, it is important for younger patients to make this examination a high priority.

How To:

Dental teams need to all be trained on the importance of the oral cancer screening and know the statistics that are associated with oral cancer. We recommend creating an oral cancer fact sheet on your letterhead that can be given to patients. Let patients know they will be screened for this as part of their new patient visit.

Too often teams are afraid to use the term oral cancer for fear of frightening the patient. It is much more important to educate the patient regarding the statistics, the prevalence of oral cancer, and your efforts at a thorough examination and the early detection of anything that looks remotely suspicious.

“Mrs. Jones, as part of your preventive care visit today, I will be examining your head and neck and the hard and soft tissues of your mouth for any unusual lumps, bumps, ulcers or sores. These are indications of oral cancer. Have you had a chronic sore throat or noticed any sore spots in your mouth that have not healed? You will notice me feeling around with my fingers and charting my findings for comparison at future visits. This is one of the most important services we can provide our patients and we will want to screen you again in 6 months. I have included a fact sheet on oral cancer statistics and risk factors, please share it with your friends and family and make sure they go to a dentist to get an examination.”

To help build value for the hygiene visit and to promote compliance to the recommended interval, have a discussion about the service you are providing rather than just going through the motions and completing the screening. Patients are educated to have other regular screenings such as skin cancer, mammograms, colonoscopies, and pap smears. We need to raise the bar with our dental patients and keep them coming to see us in a timely manner. It is not “just a cleaning” it can be a potentially life-saving visit.

Patient Tour of the Office


The patient is unaware of the extent you go to provide a safe, modern and comfortable environment for their dental care.

Desired Result:

Take a new patient, or a potential patient, on a tour of your practice. Introduce the patient reception area, the administrative offices and the clinic area and all you have done to ensure your patients have a comfortable visit. The host of your tour must be an enthusiastic team member (or the doctor) with a great attitude about your practice and about dentistry

How To:

At a team meeting, discuss all of the points that you would like to introduce to the new patient during a tour of the office. What do you do and what do you have available that is a benefit to the patient’s safety, state of mind, and comfort – make a big deal out of those things, it is what differentiates you from other practices. Think about providing things that appeal to different genders and age groups.

“Welcome Mrs. Jones, my name is Kim; it is nice to meet you! Please follow while I give you a tour of the office on our way back to the clinical area. You’ve been in our reception area, feel free to keep your coat here, we have never had one walk away but we on occasion get some coats that like to stay with us. The television has patient education on it with treatment descriptions and before and after pictures. You’ll see procedures that you have maybe heard about but not really known what they are – if you ever have any questions about anything, just ask any of us.

We invite you to enjoy coffee, tea, or water while you are here in the reception area. Many of our patients like to arrive early for their appointments and enjoy their favorite beverage and a relaxing moment. We have a favorite recipe book you can look through, please take copies of any recipes, and we encourage our patients to contribute recipes as well! Here you’ll see pictures of us at our latest outing and doing community service work. This is our book of really nice notes and letters from our patients – we love to get those and some of our patients surprise us with special treats.

This is our administrative area. Mary, whom you met earlier, is great at helping patients with scheduling and helping you understand your insurance benefits and how to pay for necessary treatment. We like to make sure there are no surprises for you regarding treatment or the costs of treatment.”

If you have a consultation room, seat the patient there for an initial review of the medical/dental history then –explain all the certifications and diplomas the doctor or team has framed in the consult room then proceed to the clinical area.

“Now we are entering the clinical zone, we are very proud of our sterilization area and the modern technology we utilize. You can be assured you will be treated with clean instruments and in an environment that has been sterilized. We like to make sure you are comfortable during any procedure and we have a menu of amenities available during your visit for your comfort and distraction. Please feel free to let us know if any of these interest you. The eye pillows are really nice!!”

You have a unique opportunity at the first patient visit to impress them with the special touches you provide your patients. It sets the stage for what you expect from your patients as well.  This makes your practice special, helps you have patients you enjoy caring for, and reassures the patient that they have made a great choice for their dental care.