June 13, 2022
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According to the most recent ADA’s Health Policy Institute poll, 65% of dentists are confident that their practices will recover from the pandemic dip. That optimism is consistent with the fact that the prices of 3 indicators of inflation have all been going down, up to 25% off their March peaks. Using traditional economic calculation, it should portend that inflation will moderate and the economy will pick up. After all, we were told that shipping containers (supply chain), vital components (computer chips) and the ability to grow food (fertilizer) were some of what was contributing to rising prices. So now that these are getting back on track, things will get better. RIGHT?


The US economy is based on consumer spending. And spending is a function of consumer “sentiment” or, in other words, psychology.

When people FEEL well-off, they spend. When they FEEL poor, they don’t. Spending is all about FEELINGS.

And so, for most consumers, the price of gas for their vehicle, and food for their family are the 2 most visible STIMULI that result in FEELINGS of financial insecurity.

The psychological impact of $5.00 a gallon (or $6+ in California) gas should not be underestimated. It’s a constant reminder that PRICES HAVE DOUBLED (even though that’s not true).

Plus, the media hypes and catastrophizes this by leading the news with “THE PRICE OF GAS HAS HIT A RECORD HIGH”, making the bleak financial future harder to avoid, even if you drive an EV.

This comes at a time when, after 2 years of variable lockdown and shut-in, people are reluctant to use public transportation and want to get out and about more. That means using their car more, which means MORE trips to the pump where the record high price is shoved right in their faces.

When people worry about money, they usually stop spending. That’s why some of the large retailers like Target have downwardly revised their yearly projections. They see what’s happening to consumer spending in real time, not on some yearly report.

How does that impact dentistry?

Simple. Anything that is considered discretionary will be subject to FEAR OF SPENDING.

Interestingly, luxury and travel products are being purchased. The Bain and Company Luxury Study reported that “personal luxury goods sales likely to be up by almost a third…with the market forecast to grow by 29%” in 2022.

So how that does that jive with the FEAR OF SPENDING?

Psychology provides the answer. People make illogical choices all the time. Emotions clouds judgment. So, when someone really wants something, they will find ways to get it. When they fear something, even if it’s good for them, they’ll decline.

We now see a push on credit cards (with incentives, of course, and despite the increased interest charges) and lay-away plans. Buy now…pay later. Because that feeds the DESIRE to buy things that people want and defers the pain of paying for it.

Traditionally, the answer to purchase resistance for dental services, as taught in dental schools and other post graduate venues, has been to EDUCATE. Show more videos, have more “visual aids” and explain in excruciating detail. In short, it was to justify WHY a patient NEEDS the treatment being proposed.

That no longer works. In fact, it never really did, which is why nationally, “case acceptance” rates for dentistry are only 35% and there’s a 15% “no show rate”(according to Jarvis Analytics’ 2021 report).

During INFLATION, RECESSION or STAGFLATION, these KPI’s will respectively go down and up unless something changes.


The challenge in dentistry has always been to move the needle from NEED to WANT. With the increased FEAR OF SPENDING we’re now seeing, promoting WANTS is the only way to get people to say YES to their NEEDS.


Here are 2 magnetic-like strategies, based on the dual poles of attraction or repelling.

1. Find out what benefit or outcome the patient wants and WHY that is  so emotionally valuable to them.
2. Find out what their FEARS are and tie a failure to proceed with care into that fear.

It’s all about the WHY!

• Why would a person want to get a better night’s sleep?
• What life-deficit or emotional impact would sleep deprivation (or oxygen deprivation) cause?
• Who might be hurt by their inaction?
• What activities, life-cycle events, pleasures, would be missed?

And then, for each, WHY is that important?

The answers to the above become the keys to treatment and financial acceptance. It’s the answer to your care NOT being about the money.

If you make it about the money, which often happens during the first phone call or even in the marketing, the process, the appliance, or anything other than the individual’s unique WHY, you risk a big fat NO.


Some say this is the most powerful emotion. It’s part of our basic instinct for self-preservation.

What are your patient’s fears?

Face it. No one likes coming to the dentist (unless you’re Bill Murray in “Little Shop of Horrors”).

So, they had to minimally overcome some fear to get themselves into the door. What pushed them forward?

• Fear of upsetting their spouse, partner or loved-one?
• Fear of increased pain or lack of function?
• Fear of losing control?
• Fear of being ill or worse?

Once the patient’s fear(s) is uncovered, it should be made real via STORIES that actualize the fearful event.

Stories abound about people who have suffered because they didn’t heed the advice of their doctor. The more personal or public, the better.

Celebrity stories work well for this purpose. Anything that hits close to home will be more impactful.

These are not Jedi mind tricks. They are ways to persuade people to do what is in their best interest, health-wise, based on Nobel Prize winning studies from people like Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who won the prize in Economics!

Imagine presenting treatment for a sleep appliance to a CPAP intolerant patient who refuses it. The next day, you see that same person in the car dealership buying a new Tesla. How would that make you feel?

Of course, you could use this for evil. But of course, you’re not going to.

These techniques require skills, in writing and oral delivery. Both skills take practice.

The PERSUASION and EMOTIONAL process starts with your website, continues with the phone call, and progresses during the treatment AND financial presentations.

If the WHY and FEAR are left out of ANY of these components, the result can be NO or worse, a cancelled or broken appointment, something we’re seeing with increasing frequency in offices across the country.

I’ll cover that topic next week.

Even smart, persuasive dentists wait to deploy these strategies until after the patient comes into the office. That’s a HUGE MISTAKE.

Promoting NEEDS and avoiding PAIN starts before a person even becomes a patient. That’s what good marketing does. It reaches out to a person with a problem, want, need or desire and grabs them, drawing them in until they eventually sit in your chair.

And with really good marketing, once they get into the chair 99% of the persuasion (selling) is done.


Nearly all your prospective patients, referred or not, will look you up. Your website and reviews are now, one of your most valuable assets.

Is your website working FOR you or AGAINST you?

Your website should promote SOLUTIONS and visions of relief via photos, stories, and testimonials. Websites should engage the viewer quickly, lure them deeper, be easy to navigate, and impel the viewer towards the next step…capture their contact information.

Yes, if they call for an appointment, that would be great. But sometimes, especially during a RECESSION, the “buying cycle’ lengthens. Unless you’re capturing names and contacts, your website is underperforming.

Also, if your website has frightening images of disembodied mouths, scary equipment and promotes PROCEDURES, you’re encouraging a NO.

Don’t let your practice wither away. Get a WEBSITE ANALYSIS


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Dr. Michael Goldberg is one of the leading educators on dental practice management in the United States.

Michael ran and sold a prestigious group practice in Manhattan and has been on Faculty at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center for 30 years including Director of the GPR program and Director of the course on Practice Management.

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