The Missing Link with Dental Case Acceptance

By Darren Kaberna

This topic appears to be so elusive for so many dental offices, so let me first define what I am speaking of because some of you reading this are thinking I am nuts. Many in dentistry don’t have any challenges with getting acceptance on covered procedures, but for those that exceed or aren’t covered, things begin to get challenging. Now I also realize many of you reading this might be thinking, I don’t have that problem. I have yet to pull the data from a practice and not see a $500K per year opportunity. So, if you think you don’t have this problem, I would suggest either pulling some data to support your claim or to learn something new.

When I was interviewed by Dr. Howard Farran a while ago, we got into a fun debate about acceptance rates. His data from Dental Town was the average case acceptance rate was 38%. Even if yours is much higher, there are still many opportunities for revenue growth by simply improving your conversations with your patients by 10%. For the average practice even this small of an improvement will normally result in six figures of new revenue, so it is worth paying attention to.

Let’s talk about how to improve it

My experience with people is they are willing to make changes for only one of two reasons, or a combination of both: to avoid pain or gain pleasure.

Think about it, the easiest case to get accepted is the patient in pain. The next easiest is the cosmetic patient who is looking for those services. The toughest patient is the one who has no symptoms or pain and didn’t know they needed it and they see no benefit from the procedure. Now if insurance covers it, sure maybe they do it. No insurance coverage and you have an uphill battle right now!

The solution probably can’t be answered in a short amount of words, but I will do my best. The real question with this topic is, how can we create patient engagement in the process and specifically the diagnosis? When people are “spoken to” they tend to tune out the speaker. But when the diagnosis is “their” idea, you have an entirely different circumstance. So how can you do that? Many ways. The one way I will focus on here is questions. Now I realize we all know this but how many live it? The question then becomes how effectively do we ask questions? This clarification is important because you might be asking questions, but are they good ones? To illustrate, my wife, a personal trainer, meets people all the time who say they work out, but the intensity of their workout is why they aren’t getting the results they desire. The same is true here, you might be asking questions but if they aren’t the right questions, you might as well skip the step.

From a neurology/psychology perspective, the questions you want to ask are going to be stumper questions, the kind where the person responds with, “That is a great question.” If you don’t ever hear that response, your questions need some work. Here is the easiest example you could try. “On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your smile?” Follow up question, “What would make it a 10?”

A few quick illustrations of how I have seen people butcher this example right in front of me:

  • How would you rate your teeth?
  • How happy are you with your smile?

I could keep giving you examples. The point is, much like a margin of a crown, precision matters. When crafting your questions, put great thought into the words and the sequence of the words.

If you desire help on how best to craft them, reach out. Happy to help.



As President and CEO of Accelerate My Practice, Darren has taken practices from filing bankruptcy to being able to pay off debt and send their kids to college. With his experience in NLP and Dental business and economics, the only way to go is up.

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