How to Handle the Money Objection

How to Handle the Money Objection

Polk & Associates CPA

Members of the dental team often comment that even when patients have a good relationship with the doctor and staff, the “money objection” often prevents patients from accepting treatment. When a patient declines treatment due to cost, the first question that the practice has to answer is whether the patient is objecting to the fee itself or having to pay the fee. Sound like the same problem? In fact, the patient’s perception of the fairness of the fee and the patient’s ability or willingness to pay the fee are two separate issues.

Let’s look at an example. The patient hears the fee for a crown and says, “That’s too expensive. I’m not going to pay that kind of money to get one tooth fixed!”

This patient is not convinced of the value of the proposed service, in this case a single crown. Whatever fee was quoted seems exorbitant to the patient, who relates that amount to getting “one tooth fixed.” The patient is not interested in hearing about payment options, because the fee is greater than the value the patient places on the service.

The challenge, then, is first to explain the value of the service to the patient, so that the fee seems reasonable in light of the scope of the service and the resulting benefits to the patient. A good way to meet this challenge is to cover the following points with the patient:

Explain that a crown is a custom-made prosthesis. Crowns do not come in sizes small, medium and large. The patient needs to know (or be reminded) that crowns are individually made not just for the individual patient, but for the particular tooth.

Explain the steps necessary to fit and deliver the crown. Patients need to be aware that the fee includes more than one visit and all laboratory costs.

Providing a patient with a crown requires the combined expertise of the dentist, other members of the dental team in the office, and a laboratory technician. This professional team effort is important, because the crown must fit well and be seated properly.

The crown is designed to look and function like a natural tooth. It needs to be esthetically pleasing yet strong enough to withstand chewing forces and temperature changes over time.

A crown is a restorative procedure because it helps to restore function and appearance. In the past, it was necessary to extract many teeth that were broken or otherwise beyond saving with a filling. Now, however, placing a crown preserves the natural tooth root and some of the tooth structure. For this reason, placing a crown on a tooth is a conservative procedure that eliminates the need for a more costly and invasive course of treatment, such as tooth extraction and restoration with a multi-unit bridge.
Once the patient understands these concepts, the amount of the fee will sound more reasonable in light of the service offered.

Some practices, however, become so adept at delivering crowns that they inadvertently devalue the service. These practices feel that because the doctor delivers services such as a single crown efficiently and routinely, that the service has less value. The service is referred to as “just a crown.” This phrase is heard when the patient enters the reception area. “Hello, Mrs. Jones. You’re just here for a crown?”

Just because the doctor can cut a crown prep quickly with an excellent result, however, does not mean that the service is less valuable to the patient. Excellent dentists should not be penalized for their skill. If a heart surgeon can complete a bypass operation in less time than some of his or her colleagues, but with equally good results, should that physician be paid less? Of course not. Dentists are not unskilled laborers who are paid by the hour; they are highly trained professionals whose fees reflect not only the time it takes to do a procedure, but diagnostic ability, clinical judgment, and the ability to produce a result that is both functional and esthetically pleasing. All these factors should be reflected in professional fees, which in turn need to be communicated clearly to patients.

Suppose the practice has done a good job of communicating value for the dollar to the patient. There is still a chance that the second kind of money objection will be raised.

For example, after hearing the full explanation of the procedure and the fee, the patient says, “I don’t know where I would get the money. I can’t afford it.” Unlike the first example, in which the patient was not convinced of the value of the procedure, this patient may feel that the quoted fee is fair, though unaffordable given the patient’s financial circumstances.

In this case, the patient is ready to hear about payment options that the practice offers. The doctor can say something like, “I know you recognize the importance of this procedure, but if you are concerned about financial arrangements, then I’m going to ask our patient treatment coordinator to talk to you about different payment options.” The focus has shifted from the need and value of the procedure to a tacit understanding that the patient will proceed with treatment once a payment method and schedule can be established.

Only by understanding the exact nature of a patient’s money objection can the practice respond appropriately and increase case acceptance.


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Article courtesy of

David Schwab, Ph.D

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