Inside the Brains of a Dental Office and the Power of Persuasion

With the holiday season behind us, it’s probably a good time of year to talk about a central marketing truth: the power of persuasion. And if you’re like most Americans you’ve seen the power of persuasion up close and personal in the last several weeks.

Think about that extra hors d’oeuvre you were pressured to consume. Remember that buy one get one free offer you couldn’t resist? What about all those Christmas and New Years gifts that pushed your bank account – and your sanity – to the breaking point? (We won’t even talk about the alcohol.)


In all cases, persuasion plays a big role. And it’s a topic I lecture about often as it relates to dental practices, too.




Because in my more than 25 years of private practice ownership I find that dental offices come up short in executing this basic idea. Yes, quality sells. But so does repetition. Sometimes story is as important as substance – at least when it comes to attracting initial interest.


In fact, to get my students interested in the topic I perform a little group exercise at the start of my marketing lecture. Without explanation I project two large red and blue circles on the wall behind me. Several minutes into my talk I tell my students one circle is bigger than the other. I then ask, “How many think the red circle is bigger?” Invariably I get a show of hands. Then I ask, “How many think the blue circle is bigger?” Again, another show of hands.


Usually the class splits about 50-50.


As you might have guessed, both circles are the same size. All I did was plant the suggestion that they weren’t and immediately peoples’ perceptual abilities fail. No matter how many times I perform this experiment I’m impressed by the results. So are my students.


So what are the lessons dental office managers can take with them and apply on Monday morning?


The ‘Art of the Deal’ and the Words to Back it Up

Dental patient persuasion is most evident when it comes to negotiating price. I often say, ‘I will never have a patient walk out because of price. I can remove that barrier.’


Especially if a patient is paying out of pocket, if they’re a referral –or if you’ve judged the work and time investment reasonable – this is where you want to be the most persuasive. Don’t quibble over a request for 10% or even 25% off. Impress this patient with your flexibility and your generosity. A decision like this could pay for itself in the number of new patients this one person ultimately recommends, not to mention repeated opportunities to suggest additional treatment. Whether you realize it or not you’re selling a narrative by creating a sense that your price flexibility is an amazing deal, making the patient feel special.


Dental practice persuasion is also about how you present information, what you say, what you don ’t say, and the words you choose. Take “socket grafting.“ Instead of discussing “socket collapse” and that tooth loss creates 40-60% alveolar bone loss in the first two to three years and risks a resorption rate of .5% to 1% for the rest of the patient’s life, talk about “socket preservation.” I’ve even created an easy-to-follow script my staff uses to help them along the way.


“Studies show, Ms. Jones, that you lose 40-60% of the jaw bone in that area if we do nothing. (PAUSE) The good news is that we can STOP the bone loss through a process called socket preservation. We put material in there – your own bone cells grow into that space, and have ‘baby and ‘grand baby’ bone cells – and the material dissolves away.”


Think about much better, how much more emotionally satisfying “preserve” (defined as: “to maintain something in its original state”) sounds compared to “graft,” which is defined as “a piece of living tissue that is transplanted surgically.”


Dental marketing is filled with similar examples. All it takes is positive spin and information that benefits the patient (without giving away too much or opening the door to too many questions) and all of a sudden you’ll find an uptick in your close rate. And likely an increase in the number of patients you treat.


For bigger, more complex cases, it’s important you break down what you have to say in smaller, bite-sized bits. Use smaller words. Speak slower than you normally would. Articulate. Lastly, it helps if you remember what I call the 8-point patient engagement list and be:


  • An active listener
  • Welcoming
  • Expressive
  • Empathetic
  • Authentic
  • Connected
  • Likeable
  • Personally well groomed


Treat the Human, not the Tooth

My final point of advice is that sales just don’t happen. It takes hard work and effort. And often I tell my students it takes ditching some of your academic idealism. Trust me, I’ve been there myself. I know what it’s like to be engrossed in textbooks and lectures and see “the disease” or “the problem” before I see the patient. The key is to treat the human, first, and the tooth, second.


As I alluded to earlier, we do this in large ways and in small. We do this by following the above list. But we also do it by never forgetting the importance of our returning patients and the value they represent. Treat them with respect, yes, but also go out of our way to make them feel like they’re your dental office “rock stars!” Remember that statistics show it is six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new patient than it is to keep an existing one.


Think about how much revenue one single patient can generate? Often it can be in the millions annualized over their lifetime association with your practice.


My point? Go the extra mile for these patients. Offer them enhanced pricing flexibility, send them holiday gifts, create special promotions, grant them the ability to change appointments more easily and even, if necessary, provide more generous payment structures – assuming they’ve demonstrated reliability in the past. (Which they most likely have.)


Whether your patients realize it or not this is a form of powerful persuasion.


Dental office psychology isn’t rocket science. But the power of persuasion is an essential principle all dentists must master if they want their practices to shoot for the stars!





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How Knowledge is the Ultimate Career Currency

Continuing Education Continues Demonstrating its Worth

How Knowledge is the Ultimate Career Currency

By: Arun K. Garg, DMD


Earlier this fall Coursera, the increasingly popular free online continuing education company, made news again. This time it wasn’t about new lectures, or the number of enrollees. It was about the company’s expansion into Latin America. Thanks to a partnership with Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo and the State University of Campinas, Coursera is about to start offering Portuguese courses.


Since its founding in 2012 Coursera has garnered mostly positive press underscoring the growing importance of continuing education and the need for adults to brush up on existing skills or learn new ones. Even for recent higher education graduates (five years or less) the pace of workplace change has grown so swift that employers resist the time and expense required for on-the-job training.


But Coursera isn’t the first company to promote the value of continuing education. The medical profession, with its numerous oversight boards and credentialing agencies in the U.S. and abroad, has a decades’ long head start. In fact, the Institute of Medicine, a non-profit affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences defines what it considers continuing education:

“Continuing education is the process by which health professionals keep up to date with the latest knowledge and advances in health care.”

Free Arizona Continuing Education for Realtors 285x280 How Knowledge is the Ultimate Career Currency

The Enhanced Value of Credentialed Continuing Education

While the above is a perfectly accurate definition I would add an important addendum. For continuing education – or dental health education specifically – to truly maximize its potential, the knowledge acquired must include some type of credentialing accreditation. Just as employers consider the quality of a new employee’s university education as a proxy of future performance, doctors (and their patients) are eager to have their continuing education efforts recognized by reputable sources. Doing so helps doctors take pride in the quality of their education and put patients at ease.


Credentialed, paid-for continuing education is also a way to separate serious learners from those dabbling in the experience – individuals who may not complete a given course. This is perhaps Coursera’s greatest criticism. While the company boasts some 9 million users and over 400 programs, it struggles with a 5 percent course completion rate.


Of course, continuing education is about more than hanging a certificate on the wall or framing a diploma. As with other disciplines, medical knowledge and the technology used to diagnose and treatment plan patients is changing rapidly. Even the way doctors input and share patient data has changed radically in the last few years, evolving from paper charts and manila folders, to integrated software and tablet computers.


Ray Caprio, the former vice president for continuing education at Rutgers University in New Jersey sums up the need for continuing education best. “Every day we know less and less about more and more,” he said in an interview with the New York Times.


Beating Back Brain Drain

Therefore, continuing education super charges your mind and reinvigorates one’s career. After all, remaining relevant and a contributing member to society as we age is of paramount importance. And when we lose that sense of self-worth, especially as men and women in the healing profession, a host of additional challenges manifest including career burnout, declining quality of service (and the risk of lawsuits) and ultimately depression. Learning, it seems, really does keep you young.

brain drain How Knowledge is the Ultimate Career Currency

Increasingly, a growing body of evidence supports continuing education’s cognitive worth. A recent University of Texas study found that adult memory improved over a three month period when a group of adults 60-90 were exposed to new tasks (like learning digital photography and knitting) that took them out of their knowledge comfort zones. Additionally, a 2011 study published in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry found that reading books and crafting – the non-medical equivalent of a hands-on experience like a live patient program or work with a cadaver – reduced the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment by up to 50%, a condition which affects up to 20% of adults 65 and over. Already nearly half of all U.S. physicians (42 percent) are 55 and over and nearly a quarter (21 percent) are over 65. For this age group, remaining sharp isn’t only a matter of professional satisfaction. It’s about maintaining their quality of life and their patients’ safety.


As a national lecturer on implant dentistry whose dental health education courses are approved by the Academy of General Dentistry, I can personally attest to the fact that credentialed American dental education in a continuing education format, can be a life-changing, brain-boosting experience. The bottom line: Henry Ford was right when he said, “anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”


Credentialed continuing education and ongoing dental health education doesn’t come in a pill and it can’t be injected. Thus, dentists who seek new knowledge must take the time necessary to investigate what courses work for them and which locations fit their busy schedules. Ongoing knowledge truly is the ultimate career currency and it’s vital doctors of all ages cash in and sign up for a course at their earliest convenience. Their brains – and their patients – will thank them in the years ahead.




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Lights, Camera, Implants!

International Dental Implant Association to Host 8th Annual Symposium in Los Angeles Yearly Gala Attracts Dental Professionals and Guest Speakers From Around the World, Providing an Unmatched Networking ExperienceIDIA logo RGB1 300x300 Lights, Camera, Implants!

Los Angeles, California February XX, 2014 – And the Oscar for best dental symposium goes to… Implant Seminars and its alumni network, the International Dental Implant Association, IDIA! The IDIA is an alumni organization for influential clinicians who have attended Implant Seminars dental continuing education programs with world renowned Arun K. Garg D.M.D. So keep that red carpet out as the IDIA and its 8th annual symposium takes the City of Angels by storm Friday and Saturday March 7-8 by hosting one of its best conventions to date. Hold the applause, though, and pause the Oscars exit music because there’s more to tell. Lights. Camera. Action!

Held at the luxurious and historic Hyatt Regency Century Plaza – located on what was once the back lot of the 20th Century Fox motion picture studio – the event attracts hundreds of renowned dental professionals and guest speakers from across the U.S., Japan and Europe. The gathering allows attendees an unmatched opportunity to network and collaborate with leaders in their respective fields while learning about the newest and most innovative technology and equipment revolutionizing our profession.

“A-list actors might have gone home, but for the International Dental Implant Association, the party is just starting. I can’t tell you how excited I am that the 8th annual IDIA symposium is fast approaching,” said Dr. Garg, Implant Seminars and IDIA founder and president. “It is my hope that attending doctors, clinicians and additional specialists make the most of their time here, but don’t forget to have a great time. This is as much a celebration for all that we’ve accomplished as well as a signature networking event.”

Speaking Parts and Fun With the Arts

This year’s speakers include: New Orleans prosthodontist Israel Finger, IDIA Diplomate Hide Matsui, marketing and technology expert Steven Giovi, Jason H. Goodchild, clinical associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, Viora Med National Accounts Manager Sally Gibb, oral surgeon Daniel Vasquez, implant device specialist Jack Hahn, vertical bone augmentation expert Keiichi Naruse, and Dr. Renzo Casellini, a Master Dental Technologist trained in Switzerland.

Like any great film, the IDIA symposium is more than a collection of speakers and it’s more than handshakes and swapped business cards. The IDIA Symposium is also about having fun! After all, we selected Los Angeles as our symposium city less than a week after the 86th Academy Awards for a reason. Tinseltown is an entertainment mecca and the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza – complete with 726 luxurious rooms, the Equinox Fitness Center and LA-inspired cuisine with courtyard and patio dining rooms – is a short drive to Santa Monica restaurants and shops and of course, the city’s famous amusement pier. What better way to spend the second weekend in March?

Credits Roll

By attending the Symposium, attendees will also receive continuing education hours approved by the Academy of General Dentistry and they will return home with an increased knowledge in dental implants – not to mention a belly full of good food and drinks!

“The International Dental Implant Association strives to assist you and your practice to improve your dental education and increase public awareness concerning the benefits of dental implants,” Dr. Garg added. “On top of all this, learning should be fun and enjoyable so we make sure it is!”

For a complete outline of events and speakers or to register please contact the association at the number below. OK. Now you can cue the Oscar exit music…

Symposium Event Location:

Los Angeles

Hyatt Regency Century Plaza

2025 Avenue of the Stars

Los Angeles, CA 90067

(310) 228-1234


Program Hours:

8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


International Dental Implant Association

Phone: 305.945.7334


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