Implant treatment is a mainstay at my practice because it is such a profitable and highly successful way of satisfying the needs and desires of edentulous patients. Dental professionals are urged to educate patients about the advantages that implant restorations have over other treatment options. It is important for edentulous patients to know that no other treatment modality has a more natural fit and feel. Furthermore, most patients who are missing teeth would benefit from the improved stability, function and esthetics that implant restorations afford.
Though providing patients with implant restorations has always been rewarding, I saw a dramatic growth in my practice after modifying the way in which implant treatment was being presented. In addition to supplementing the treatment discussion with case examples and utilizing a simplified fee structure, working with a great financing company has also extended implant treatment to more patients. The sections that follow detail the case presentation practices that have increased my implant caseload.
Supplement the Discussion with Case Examples
Most of the time, even patients who come in asking about implant treatment have never actually seen dental implants and the prosthetics they support. It can be hard for someone to say, “I’d like to move forward with treatment,” if they don’t have a good grasp of how the treatment will progress or what the final prosthesis will look like. Presenting photos of cases that are similar to that of the patient is helpful. Capturing photos of a variety of cases is recommended. A basic series of photos should be taken of your work at various stages, including the treatment site prior to surgery, the implant in place, the final restoration, and X-rays taken pre- and post-treatment.
People want to be able to touch, feel and look at a physical model that illustrates the recommended course of treatment. For instance, for fully edentulous patients who would benefit from upgrading to an implant overdenture, supplementing the discussion with a model is valuable. This allows the clinician to demonstrate how overdentures provide a higher level of retention, making its value clearer to the patient.
Also, many patients are not aware of the fact that tooth loss leads to bone loss and the consequences that this can have on facial esthetics. Dental implants mitigate the resorption that occurs in the absence of teeth by providing continued stimulation to the bone. Educating patients about this fact can help elicit acceptance of treatment, particularly for fully edentulous patients, who are impacted the most by bone loss. Showing patients images that illustrate the negative effect of complete edentulism on facial esthetics and the dramatic improvement that results from implant therapy can be particularly persuasive.
Utilize a Simplified Fee Structure
Patient finances are an important part of the treatment discussion. A simplified fee structure allows the clinician and office staff to discuss the cost of treatment with ease. Some patients feel more comfortable asking staff members financial questions, and a simplified fee structure allows every member of my staff to confidently discuss the cost of treatment. When patients are in the consultation room with me, I tell them that they need three elements to replace the tooth: The implant is basically the root of the restoration, the abutment is the post that comes up out of the gums, and the crown is seated over the post and will look and function like a tooth. I provide the cost of those elements and follow it with a quote for the total cost of treatment. Practices may also have greater success by utilizing the Inclusive® Tooth Replacement System (Glidewell Laboratories; Newport Beach, Calif.), which includes everything needed to restore a tooth. In addition to facilitating a smoother workflow, the complete case solution aids in managing the dental practice with the benefit of knowing laboratory fees upfront.
Discuss Financing Programs
If the cost of treatment is more than what the patient had anticipated or is able to afford, financing options should be discussed. Patients on Social Security or those who are subject to a fixed income can benefit from a financing program. Patients may not be aware that financing programs are available to help. Working with a company like Lending Club has been advantageous because it allows the patient to repay the cost of treatment over time, making it possible for more patients to agree to implant therapy.
As clinicians we want to make treatment affordable for our patients, but sometimes the only way to do that is with the help of a lender. Out of all the financing companies I’ve had experience with, Lending Club allows qualified borrowers the lowest interest rate and the greatest number of months to repay their loan. Those who cannot afford to pay for treatment all at once are still able to receive the highest level of care. Another great thing about Lending Club is that they offer a true interest-free loan as an option; if patients do not pay the entire balance by the time the interest-free period ends, interest is not calculated from day one. Knowing that patients have a reasonable time period to repay the lender and a reasonable interest rate gives the clinician greater peace of mind and makes it easier for patients to move forward with treatment.
Implant treatment improves the quality of life for edentulous patients. Based on my experience, implant case acceptance can be significantly increased with the right presentation strategy. When patients understand the value of implant therapy and are aware of the financial help that is available to them, it is not hard for patients to follow through and accept treatment.