You dream of a successful dental business.

A popular practice with hordes of loyal patients who hang on your every word.

So you never have to worry about an empty appointment book again.

But you haven’t got any chance of getting that unless you’re diagnosing comprehensively.


Because if you’re not diagnosing comprehensive you’re probably leaving money on the table – and more importantly – you’re not serving your patients.


Dentists who diagnose comprehensively and explain the treatment to patients in ways that they understand will have patients asking for the treatment they need.

But most dentists don’t diagnose comprehensively. They’re human, so they’re governed by a set of biases, emotions and assumptions.

And they let those biases, emotions and assumptions control their diagnosis.

It’s OK. We all do it.

But it doesn’t serve our patients well. It’s human, but it’s not really ‘right’.

When we fail to give a patient full diagnosis, we’re robbing them.

We’re robbing them of information, and we’re robbing them of the ability to make an informed decision.

It might be unintentional, but it’s wrong. So how do you prevent yourself doing this?

I mean, these errors are completely natural. They’re involuntary. We do them because we’re human and we can’t stop being human.

But we can minimise our ability to fall into the trap.

By getting to know these natural errors, we can be aware of them. And once we’re aware of them, we can work on reducing – or eliminating – them.

So let’s get to know these beasts, shall we? Because once we can name it, we can tame it!

1. Fear of rejection

The fear of rejection is one of our deepest human fears. We’re biologically wired to belong and fear being seen in a critical way.

The depth and intensity of this fear varies for each person, but we need to manage or control it when we diagnosis.

We may be afraid the patient won’t accept our diagnosis, but we still need to be comprehensive.

We owe it to our patients to put aside our fear and give them our best.

2. Fear of being seen to have ulterior motives

Many of us worry that our patients will think we’re diagnosing simply to line our own pockets.

There’s been plenty of media attention around self-serving or unethical dentists, and we’re concerned about being cast in the same light.

What we don’t realise is that we need to set patient expectations.

If we let our patients know they have several issues we can discuss different treatment options.

We can support and encourage them to maintain their oral health between visits, and let them know that some of their issues are more urgent than others, or some simply need preventive maintenance.

3. Fear of confrontation

Many people fear confrontation but here’s an interesting thing. Most of us don’t have a clear perception of how assertive – or under assertive – we’re being.

Researchers from Columbia University conducted a study on self-awareness for assertiveness. They conducted simulated negotiations and asked people to rate their level of aggressiveness, and they found:

“Surprisingly, many people seen as appropriately assertive by counterparts mistakenly thought they were seen as having been over-assertive, a novel effect we call the line crossing illusion.”

As dentists were fear that our patients will disagree with us, but we shouldn’t. If we’ve built patient loyalty and set ourselves up as an authority we have little to fear.

4. Fear of being seen as taking advantage

No one wants to feel they’re taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune. But you’re not doing that.

You’re a health-care professional who’s trying to support people through their misfortune. You’re trying to get them back to optimal health.And you can’t do that for free.

And you can’t do that for free.

Maybe you’d like to, but you can’t. No one can.

If you approach your patients with a view to helping them, they’ll pick up on that.

You’ll present your case appropriately. Your communication will be care-based rather than financially-focused.

And your patients will know that your main interest is their health, not their finances.

5. Fear patients can’t complete the treatment

It’s normal to be concerned that patients may not complete the full treatment. And there will be patients who don’t complete their treatment.

But if you’ve positioned yourself as an authority and you present your case appropriately those that fail to complete treatment will be a minority.

If the shoe was on the other foot and your GP didn’t give you a full diagnosis because they were worried about you completing the treatment – how would you feel?

Set aside your assumptions and say what you see – your patients will thank you for it.

6. Feeling a sense of unworthiness about diagnosing such treatment

If you step into your role as a person of authority you will find life gets easier.

People come to you for an opinion. They want you to give them your professional judgement. You owe it to your patients to give them a comprehensive diagnosis.

Your patients chose you. They value your opinion and your care.

And here’s something no one else will tell you.

You are worthy. You are capable. You are qualified to do this.

Step up and step into your role as the professional you are.

7. Concerns the patient cannot afford treatment

A case study from the Pride Institute found that,

When patients decline comprehensive treatment or dentists only diagnose the chief complaint, what’s commonly the reason behind this? The most common reason we find is a concern about the patients’ wallets.

They say,

We have to learn to put aside our biases about what our patients find affordable, and what they don’t.

Many dentists make assumptions about their patients and this does them a great disservice. The old saying about not judging a book by its’ cover still holds true.Learn to set aside your beliefs and give your patients the whole picture.

Learn to set aside your beliefs and give your patients the whole picture.

8. Fear the patient won’t accept treatment

This assumption is similar to one that many job seekers have. They read a job advertisement that sounds amazing.It’s their dream job.

It’s their dream job.

But then they worry that they won’t be successful. They won’t be offered this great position.

So they give in to their fear and they don’t apply for the job. They don’t even give themselves the chance to reach their goals.

Don’t give in to your fear.

Don’t let it prevent you giving your patients the full picture.

Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

Henry Ford once said,

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t.”

The first step in comprehensive diagnosis is to know and understand our own assumptions, biases and fears.

Then learn to set aside these feelings.

Let them go and focus on your patient.

You’re a great dentist and you want the best for the people you take care of.

You owe it to them to give them the benefit of your opinion.

So the next time you feel one of these doubts niggling away at you, tell it you’re not listening.

You’ll be just fine by yourself.