Questions to Reduce Patient Resistance

By Holly Anne Mitchell

Have you ever had a patient describe the treatment presentation as “pushy?” I know this is never our intention; we want to help the patient to feel excited about improving their health and confidence! I want to share some resources with you to reduce friction in these crucial chairside conversations so patients don’t feel pushed. Two things will help improve this perception:

#1 The patient interview questions
#2 Permission questions

Patient Interview Questions

The medical history form combined with the patient interview is a powerful process to build trust and gain buy-in later when it’s time to make recommendations. Here are my favorite patient interview questions. These questions should never be skipped on a busy day because they save explanation time, reduce resistance, and increase case acceptance:

  • What do you do for work? How did you get started doing that? (storytelling questions open the patient up)
  • Can you tell me about your dental experiences in the past? Have they been mostly positive or negative? (again opening the patient up to build trust, showing them that we care)
  • Tell me about your teeth, are they getting along?
  • How’s your health, and the health of your family tree?
  • What’s important to you when it comes to your smile?
  • Do you have any special events coming up that you’d like to enhance your smile for?

Later in the conversation, use the word because to make a bridge between their answers from the interview, and the treatment you are recommending. “Because you mentioned X, I’m recommending Y.” Don’t forget to nod and use a confident tone of voice when making recommendations. Allow the ends of your sentences to fall as statements, rather than rise up in pitch which introduces doubt.

Permission Questions

Permission questions reduce patient resistance because they provide the patient autonomy and choice. Without permission statements a treatment coordinator or provider can come off as pushy or salesy, risking a disgruntled patient.

Combine permission questions with a head nod, and gentle tone of voice to gain acceptance and compliance without resistance. Each question gently leads the patient to a yes, allowing you to maintain rapport. Remember, we always want patients to have a positive association with the office so they write positive reviews, refer their friends, and return for treatment.

“Can I show you?”

“Can I tell you why I’m concerned?”

“Can I share some of our options with you?”

“Would you be open to it at some point in the future?”

“If I can help make it more affordable for you, would you consider it?”

“Why don’t we see what the options are and then you can decide what’s best for you?”

“Can I make a recommendation?”

“Can I give you my expert opinion?”

“Can I share a different opinion with you based on my research and experience?”

“Do I have your permission to speak frankly?”

“Can I tell you what I would do?”

Incorporating Interview questions and Permission Questions allows the patient to invite you in without having to break down the door.

Next step: review these every day at the huddle this week until you’ve memorized them by heart. Practice makes progress!

Wishing you abundance in case acceptance, practice success, and personal fulfillment.


Known as “The Tony Robbins of Teeth:” Holly Anne Mitchell is the Founder and Chief Empathy Officer of the LeadWell Network, a certified hypnotist, keynote speaker, master practitioner in Neurolinguistic Programming, life and business coach in the dental industry. Holly trains dentists and their teams on case acceptance, compassionate leadership, stress management, and culture transformation to double their revenue and cut their stress in half.


View Holly’s full bio