The biggest obstacle to treating periodontal disease isn’t knowledge or technique or even technology. The biggest obstacle to treating periodontal disease is getting the patient to agree to it. When it comes to patient acceptance for perio treatment, it’s as they say, “You can lead a patient to periodontal treatment, but you can’t make them accept it.”
Or can you? There are a few secrets to persuading patients to move forward with patient acceptance. And it starts with understanding why patients don’t want the treatment.
Objection #1: My gum disease doesn’t bother me, so I will wait.
For some patients, the problem is that they don’t feel they have a problem, quite literally. They have no symptoms; therefore, the treatment of gum disease isn’t a priority for them. Patients that are not suffering symptoms from periodontitis often think, “When it starts to hurt/bleed/bother me, then I’ll get it fixed.”
How should you present periodontal treatment to these patients? Educate them about gum disease.
All patients should have a basic understanding of gum disease, whether they have the condition or not. Many people don’t know how serious gum disease is or how prevalent it is. While people might understand risk factors they can control (smoking, poor dental hygiene, etc.), patients might not understand the risk factors for gum disease that they can’t control (hormonal changes, family history, etc.). Also, all people should know that gum disease has been linked to other systemic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Education is especially crucial when the patient has gum disease already.
However, it is important that you don’t talk down to the patient. In an article on RDH, the author Jamie Collins, RDH, CDA, describes a patient that had felt condescended to in the past which led to him declining the treatment. This same patient responded well to the approach outlined in the article. Furthermore, use pictures to illustrate your recommendations. Collins used a combination of explanation, radiographs, and intraoral photos to help her patient acceptance of perio treatment to great effect.
Objection #2: I only want to do what’s covered by my insurance.
Patients might have a few different reasons behind their objection to paying for additional treatment. From mistrust of the dentists’ or hygienists’ motives to financial circumstances that prevent them from moving forward, any number of factors could have led them to the path of doing what insurance pays for and nothing more.
How should you present periodontal treatment to these patients? Help them understand how treatment can cut costs.
We know that the oral cavity is indicative of the overall health of your patient. Many times when periodontal disease has progressed rapidly since the last appointment, it can be an indication that there has been a change in their overall health. In other words, the mouth can be the canary in the coal mine as it were. Furthermore, treatment of gum disease can be helpful in managing the patient’s other conditions.
For example, studies have shown that treating gum disease in patients with diabetes has benefits for both conditions. However, if this appeal doesn’t work, you can use the statistics from the United Concordia study that reported treating gum disease and maintaining it resulted in $2,840 in savings for diabetics, $1,090 for patients with heart disease, and $5,681 for patients that had a stroke. Another thing to remember with these patients, particularly the ones that have financial circumstances, is not to give up on recommending treatment. Even if some patients don’t accept right away, it doesn’t mean they won’t. They might just need time to be “ready.”
Objection #3: I’ve gone down this road before with surgery and I hated it, and it didn’t work.
Patients with a history of gum disease might have already attempted a treatment that for whatever reason didn’t work. Perhaps they had traditional pocket reduction procedures, with a scalpel and sutures. Maybe it was a failed gum graft surgery. It could even be that they were too afraid to attempt either of these treatments and instead only submitted for non-surgical periodontal treatments like root planing or scaling.
How do you address these concerns with a patient? Suggest a new approach.
There are new alternatives to traditional periodontal treatment that your patient might not yet be aware of. The FDA-approved LANAP® Protocol uses a laser to treat affected areas. It serves as a less painful treatment that has shown to be more successful than conventional surgery. The effectiveness has been linked to the treatment’s ability to get to the source of the inflammation caused by gum disease without destroying healthy surrounding tissue. Moreover, it reduces the pocket depth around teeth, as well as slowing or even stopping attachment loss. Best of all, there are NO scalpel or sutures involved, only the PerioLase® MVP-7™. This treatment protocol has enjoyed a 90% acceptance rate when presented to patients.
When it comes to overcoming objections to patient acceptance for perio treatment, there is nothing that will help you succeed more than listening to your patient’s concerns and addressing them directly. Whether it’s a case of misinformation, financial stress, or fear, there are few concerns that education, understanding, and technique alternatives can’t fix. The most important thing is that the patient gets the treatment they need to have the dental health they deserve.
What objections have you encountered to patient acceptance in your practice? We’d love to address them in the comments below.
Collins, RDH, CDA, Jamie. “Unrelenting pursuit of perio treatment: Case acceptance means hanging in there until a positive outcome is achieved.” www.rdhmag.com. 13 March 2015. Web. 22 June 2016. <http://www.rdhmag.com/articles/print/volume-35/issue-3/features/unrelenting-pursuit-of-perio-treatment.html>
“United Concordia Oral Health Study: The Results.” www.unitedconcordia.com. Web. 23 June 2016. <https://www.unitedconcordia.com/dental-insurance/dental-health/conditions/ucwellness-oral-health-study/results-ucwellness-oral-health-study/>
Briggs, Wendy. “3 steps to increasing acceptance for periodontal services.” www.dentalproductreport.com. 19 January 2015. Web. 22 June 2016. <http://www.dentalproductsreport.com/hygiene/article/3-steps-increasing-acceptance-periodontal-services>
Esler, RDH, Kristen. “4 ways to increase periodontal case acceptance.” www.dentaleconomics.com. 14 October 2014. Web. 22 June 2016. <http://www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-104/issue-10/practice/dental-business-solutions/4-ways-to-increase-periodontal-case-acceptance.html>
Wang, DDS, Dennis. “Getting your dental implant patient to say ‘yes’ to periodontal therapy.” www.perioimplantadvisory.com. 14 December 2015. Web. 22 June 2016. <http://www.perioimplantadvisory.com/articles/2015/12/getting-your-dental-implant-patient-to-say-yes-to-periodontal-therapy.html>