Dental collection secrets

June 20, 2016|Kendall Butler

Dental practices with healthy collections know a secret: We need to use good communications skills and share with patients the specific dollar amounts attached to their procedures. Provide this information from the very beginning of their treatment process, as they schedule their next appointment.

Generally, printing a treatment plan and letting the patient know the cost of the treatment (and if they have insurance, their co-payment amount)—and that it is expected at time of service—will save everyone a ton of work later. If we are not having these conversations and collecting payment at the time of service, we may be spending too much time “chasing” down the money afterward.

In a perfect world

It would be so easy if dentistry worked like clothing store, with the crowns, fillings, implants or dentures all hanging from hangers with price tags dangling. Patients could select what they want, bring it to the front desk and we would just ring it up.

Yet, there really is no difference between the two interactions. Patients have selected what they want and decided to move forward with the treatment, so don’t be sheepish when it comes to collecting at the time of service.

No other business allows me to simply get what I want and walk away without paying for it (actually, I believe that’s called shoplifting). If that were possible, I would be driving a much nicer car and sporting some very serious jewelry!

Dental teams need to sit up straight in their chairs, square their shoulders, be confident and understand that the patient received their choice of services and now needs to pay the agreed upon amount. Allowing someone to walk away without paying for their services is just not right.

First steps

Start by changing the way team members think about collecting money. It is not personal—they are not asking a patient to hand them money for their own personal use. Patients who know the amount due and still attempt to exit without paying will become collection problems down the road, and we would be better served nipping this behavior in the bud.

When communicating with patients, use the same scripts and follow the same system. This then becomes second nature and patients understand the rules. When we are wishy-washy and some team members allow patients to leave without paying while others are collecting, it generally creates serious chaos at practices and can be dangerous for an owner. If left unchecked, this poor business habit can quickly grow into staggering amounts of uncollected money. Many dentists are completely unaware of how significant this amount becomes until the damage is already done. Once accounts are beyond 90 days past due it becomes very difficult to collect on them.

The solution is training your team to use the right scripts at the beginning of the treatment, as well as during the walk-out. Don’t wait until the end when the final product or service is already in the patient’s mouth.

For ideas on how to get started, contact Kendall Butler or any member of the Dental Advisory Group at Schenck at 800-236-2246.


Kendall Butler is a dental practice efficiency specialist with more than 25 years of experience in health care. She works with doctors, practice managers, hygiene teams and support staff to identify ways to enhance practice efficiency and profitability.