The Most Important Lesson I Ever Learned from A Dental CE Lecture


We’ve all had them – AHA moments. A moment when something just clicks and makes total sense. Most of the time it’s never really anything earth shattering, it’s usually something that is so common sense. Sometimes you don’t even realize it right away, but it becomes apparent over time.

I’ve been a practicing dentist for 15 years now. I’ve had the privilege of learning from some of the best minds and personalities in dentistry. But to this day a single lecture stands out in my mind – and it happened to be one of the very first I ever attended.

It was Chicago MidWinter and it was delivered by Dr. Larry Rosenthal. At the time I was 24 years old and pretty much fresh out of dental school. I didn’t know Dr. Rosenthal from Joe Schmoe. What I didn’t realize or understand is that Dr. Rosenthal was/is a legend of cosmetic dentistry. But truthfully, that didn’t matter that much.

So what did I glean from his short talk? I took away several things, but the thing that stuck out to me was something he said in passing – ‘First get the patient to yes and THEN figure out how to get it done.’ Let’s talk about what this means to me and why I believe it is unbelievably important.

To often I work with dentists who try to figure out what and how they’ll do the treatment before they even bother asking the patient if they are interested. At a recent seminar I was sharing some case examples and I asked the audience “What’s the first step?”. The most common answer was ‘get mounted models’. Inside I chuckled, but I also felt sad. These dentists are getting ready to do all this work (and it’s irrelevant if the patient pays a nominal fee for the models) and spend all this energy planning out a fancy plan, and they haven’t even asked the patient if they are interested. So “What’s The First Step?” – it’s always paint a basic picture of the choices, give ball park fees, and ask the patient if they are interested in learning more.

I already know what you are thinking – “What if I can’t figure out the options without studying the case?” My knee jerk reaction is to say that if you can’t look at a situation and quickly formulate a basic outline and ball park fee then you shouldn’t be doing it. But some cases are hard and have many different scenarios based on certain things going a certain way. But don’t let that change the concept. In those cases give the patient a ballpark range from $x to $x to do your case (and the range will likely be significant). If the patient is interested then go through a records process.

Now here’s your other ‘yeah but’. Sometimes these cases involve multiple specialists. My knee jerk reaction here is to say learn how to do those procedures yourself. Now that one is probably unrealistic! I have made it my goal to know and understand the fee structure of my specialists. I am not saying that I call and ask their fees and quote them. Instead I learn their ball park numbers and how they determine if the case is complex and warrants a greater fee. Then I simply include their fee in my ball park. This one thing alone has made things easier for me, my specialists, and my patients.

Stop taking impressions and having models sit on your desk. Stop putting together fancy treatment plans and getting dejected when your patient says no. Stop running on roller skates and get your practice doing more complex, comprehensive dentistry. It all starts with a mindset of being patient centric. Find out what the patient wants and then deliver it!

So here’s my take away suggestions.

1. Fight the urge to take impressions and study the case prior to the patient saying YES.
2. Develop the ability to quickly formulate conceptual treatment plan and ball park fees.
3. Learn to have options. People love having choices. That being said never have more than 3 options.
4. Learn the fees of the most common procedures that your specialists do.
5. Now teach your team members all of the above!

Dentistry is a great profession. We can help so many people and achieve so much in our personal lives. If you take what I am saying to heart and truly implement it you will do more cases and have a higher case acceptance.

Have a question or suggested topic you’d like me to write about? Shoot me a direct email – – or leave a comment below. My goal is to help and reach as many dental professionals as possible. I can only do that by sharing on the topics you want to hear about most.

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