Patient Case Presentations

Guidelines for Practice Success | Managing Patients | Treatment Recommendations

The success of any dental practice is directly related to patients’ acceptance of the dentists’ treatment recommendations. A “choreographed” case presentation that blends spoken words with non-verbal cues and visual aids can increase patients’ acceptance of your recommendations. In some cases, it can be helpful to support your case presentation with photographic images so the patient can see the condition being treated; make sure to have a signed photography release before taking, using or otherwise sharing those images.

  • Make sure that your case presentations are clear, easy to understand and communicated in layman’s terms.
    • Be sure that the patient is involved in the treatment decisions and that patient autonomy is respected.
    • Discuss the reason treatment is recommended, what to expect during and after treatment, and the risks associated with accepting-and not accepting-the recommended care.
    • Speak calmly, reassure patients that they’ll be taken care of throughout the process, and encourage them to ask questions.
    • Explain what you are going to do and why. Step by step, say what will be done and why it needs to be done. Remind the patient throughout the discussion of the treatment benefits.
    • Present information in bite-sized pieces, perhaps breaking the treatment down by quadrant. Remember, you are communicating highly technical information to an anxious layperson.
    • Use as little technical language as possible. Rather than admit they don’t understand what you’re suggesting, many patients will conjure a simplified-and often distorted-translation that could scare them away from a procedure.
    • Speak in short sentences. One idea per sentence is easier to understand than a barrage of complex ideas coming at a patient in sentences a mile long.
    • Whenever possible, support your recommendations with visual aids, such as pictures, diagrams or ADA brochures that add clarity and more detail.
    • Deliver the case presentation in the context of a natural conversation, not a sales pitch.
    • Some patients may be nervous about treatment or worried about whether they can afford it. Let them know your practice has plans in place to help finance care and that your staff person (e.g., financial coordinator, office manager) will discuss those options with them.
  • Case presentations for minor restorative treatment usually take place in the operatory. Use a private consultation room or your office to discuss major restorative work. The latter also applies to sensitive patients or those needing multiple appointments that will involve higher than average treatment costs.

Additional Resource:

Sample Photography Release Form [PDF]
Patient Education Kit: Visual Guides to Case Presentations [ADA Catalog]