The “Reciprocal Referral” is an effective method to build a strong referral-based dental practice, and the opportunities are always right in front of your eyes. Many of your patients have businesses or services that you can use either personally or in the dental office.
I have seen exceptional networking returns by a dentist who purchases a weekly delivery of fresh flowers for his Reception Room. (The Florist and husband are loyal patients and they consistently refer many of their own customers.)
Another dentist “thanked” a referring patient who is an IT specialist by having him set up an office computer system in 5 operatories, private office and business office. That patient referred nine additional families over the next six months.
Some other examples of Referral Acknowledgement by Reciprocating that have produced well for my clients were with a plumber, a commercial printing company, a realtor, and even with an attorney. In all these cases, both the doctor and the referrer were exceedingly pleased with the results of their networking.
“Scratching each others’ backs.” 
You are quite familiar with the phrase “A referral is a compliment from a patient or a friend.” That compliment can’t be ignored. When someone thinks enough of you to refer one of their family or trusted friends, ignoring their kindness would be taken as an insult, while acknowledging their referral will encourage more referrals. It seems simple, but many dentists, surprisingly, just can’t figure out what to do.
Do you or a team member make calls, send cards, flowers, gifts, movie tickets, dinner certificates, or something even more creative? Or truthfully, are you taking the referrals for granted?
In your next TEAM meeting, mastermind a Program of Acknowledgements. What is one referral worth to your practice? How would you thank a patient, friend, or associate who refers 5 patients? What about 10 referrals? Create your “program”. Make it part of your written Office Policy.
And who are the patients- tomorrow- that you can initiate into your Reciprocal Referral Program?


Can a Dentist talk to a patient while concentrating on the job at hand?
Dentists reach a point, after varying degrees of experience, where we know the clinical procedural sequence so well, that we are able to do the job and educate at the same time.

Some patients are quite “detail oriented” and they would like you to tell them what you are going to do, tell them what you are doing, and then tell them what you have done.
Then there are the “big picture” people (the vast majority of our patients) who only want to know how long. how much, and the end result. We can get to know who they are by learning body language and verbal cues… or even asking our patient. They will tell us.  In all cases it is helpful to find some subject to talk about (a one-way conversation, of course) to keep the patient distracted and thinking positive about the treatment, their comfort, and the outcome. The chairside assistant can play an important role in this.
Still interested? Please read my article on case presentation:
NO-ONE will disagree that any patient must be treated as a whole. I have never seen a tooth or a mouth walk into a dental office without a human attached to it.   A dentist must be a lot more than a clinical robot. To REALLY help a patient, we must serve them as a teacher, psychologist, caring person, and primarily, a LISTENER.
Here’s my formula: “ALF
Ask the right questions,
Listen carefully,
and give Feedback so the patient knows you understand.
“There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ question from a patient.”
Everyone on the team should be educators, on the same “channel”, and knowing how to fully support the dentist.


You can kill a good presentation by trying to explain too much. You know what the patient needs and he/she probably knows too.

Most of your patients will be big picture” processors. They will want to know the BASICS- how long, how much, and the result. They may even tell you that. You can determine that from their metaphors and body language. The few “detail oriented” patients will be the accountants, engineers,… and other dentists. If you give too many details in your presentation, you will open Pandora’s Box for even the “Big Picture” patients to start a litany of questions. Avoid such statements as, “…then the Hygienist will scale, root plane and irrigate….”, or “… after I prepare your teeth, I’ll take some impressions, and….”

[ The Hygienist “removes disease” and you are “creating a great new smile”. It’s that simple! ]

There’s a time and a place for those detail explanations, but it is not during the case presentation. For now just concentrate on the value and the benefits. KISS. “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

Make your presentations well planned-out and concise. Utilize visual aids and social confirmations.

Picture your desired OUTCOME, then trim away the excess like a Michelangelo:

A 15th Century admirer looked in awe at one of Michelangelo’s sculptures and asked the maestro how he could create such a magnificent sculpture from a block of marble. Michelangelo said, “I saw the angel in the marble and I carved away the excess until I set him free.”

Here’s a humorous example:

The young doctor had just completed his first Treatment Plan Presentation for a big cosmetic makeover. He followed all the rules given by his coach. He demonstrated with study models, radiographs and photographs, and clearly detailed to his patient every situation requiring treatment. His presentation was planned, orchestrated and smoothly presented.

He explained an ideal treatment to his patient which the doctor had estimated at $22,500. The young doctor did not yet have a financial coordinator and had to present the investment himself. It was his first case over a few thousand dollars. He went into great detail then froze and could not give the fee.
The patient seemed impressed with the understanding that the doctor showed of his dental condition, and the benefits from the proposed treatment and told him that. “Doc, I realize that I neglected my dental condition for a long time and that I need a lot of work………..but honestly, I have no insurance and I can’t go over $25,000.”
With that the doctor snapped back, “That’s exactly what it will cost!”

How do YOU acknowledge word-of-mouth referrals? How do you thank the referrer?

When someone thinks enough of you to refer one of their family or trusted friends, ignoring their kindness would be taken as an insult, while acknowledging their referral will encourage more referrals. It seems simple, but many dentists, surprisingly, just can’t figure out what to do.


What do you think of this idea?

A printed card is sent to the referring friend with a lottery ticket inside. The outside of the card says, You’re worth a million to us.” On the inside where the ticket is attached, it is inscribed, We hope you win.”
On the other inside flap there’s a personal note from the doctor, “Thank you for referring (patient) to us.”
Small cost, great value. I hope you can send 5 of these every day.

When one of your patients gets a winning lottery card, just think of the publicity you will receive, and ………… she may spend her winnings in your office, for that dentistry she needed.
Do you or a team member make calls, send cards, flowers, gifts, movie tickets, dinner certificates, or something even more creative? Or truthfully, are you taking the referrals for granted?
In your next TEAM meeting, mastermind a Program of Acknowledgements.  What is one referral worth to your practice? How would you thank a patient, friend, or associate who refers 5 patients? What about 10 referrals?



If you have dental “insurance”, think of it as your rich uncle giving you up to $1000. each year to spend towards your dental care.
 The truth is, dental benefits are not “insurance”. “Insurance” by its definition limits your liability. That is,no matter how sick you get, your medical insurance, for example, is designed to protect you from financial hardship. Your dental plan, on the other hand, will only pay so much per year, no matter how much care you need. It’s designed to limit the insurance company’s liability. Whether you need $200 or $2000 worth of dental care, the insurance company will only pay up to an agreed-upon annual maximum.


 One way or another, YOU are paying for that benefit. It may be through a monthly premium, or perhaps your employer is paying part or all of it for you.
 If you have dental insurance it’s a great thing to have. Congratulations. Most insurance company maximums are $1000. per year, meaning they will cover the first $1000. of your yearly dental expenses. Dental benefits have barely increased in the last fifty years. The very first dental insurance was offered in the early 1960’s, and it covered $1000 per year. Back then, that would pay for a lot of dentistry!
Doctors have an ethical and legal obligation to diagnose and sharetheir findings with you. We base treatment recommendations on the needs of the patient, not the limitations of the benefits. Naturally, we respect your right to make decisions regarding your oral health, but we want you to be totally informed.

Your rich uncle wouldn’t want it any other way.



Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 –1564) considered himself a sculptor, not a painter.  Two of his best-known works, the Pieta and David, were sculpted before he turned thirty. Despite his low opinion of painting, he was persuaded by Pope Julius II, against his will, to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which took approximately four years to complete (1508–1512). The maestro Michelangelo created two of the most influential works in fresco in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling, and The Last Judgement on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Michelangelo the sculptor met the challenge presented to him, seized the opportunity, and is now also considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time.
We are living in a very complex and challenging economic time. Most businesses are feeling the crunch. There is a perception of imminent financial doom and a fear of spending money. Yet the reports show that the clever businessman is meeting the challenges and not just surviving, but thriving. How are some people doing that?
What do YOU need to do to meet your challenges?
It may be as simple as taking a training course to expand your services, or understanding your uniqueness and letting your public how you can uniquely help them. This is the time to be social. Do it through the social media and do it in person. Be active with your Chamber of Commerce, with local networking groups, religious and school organizations, and with local businesses. LinkedIn blogs will suggest dozens of ideas for you to select from.

But don’t you agree you have to do some things different?

This is the time to take some action. Keep your eyes open for the opportunities. They are always there. The next opportunity could make you a maestro.

 Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 –1564)




Are you in control (“at cause”) of your conditions, or believe that you have little or no control (“at effect”).  Do you believe that “the economy” has control over your success? Do the “Insurance Companies” determine your patients’ treatment acceptance?

Do you know people who continually place themselves at effect and feel they are  a victim of circumstances?  The idea that other people are responsible for how they feel and act : “That  patient made me angry.”, or “My  lab is costing me money.”, or “People don’t want to spend money on dentistry today.”  Those who live their lives at effect often see themselves as victims with no choices whatsoever. The irony is that they do have choice and they have chosen not to choose but to be responsive to whatever is given to them.

Putting yourself at cause is about taking responsibility – recognizing that you have the ability to respond rather than just react to whatever life throws at you. You can make things happen; you have the power to change things.   You always look for the opportunity and you move towards achieving your desired OUTCOMES. If things are not unfolding as you would like, you take action and explore other possibilities. Above all, you know you have choice in what you do. This is the time to do something different- stand out from the crowd.

People who think they are at effect use words like “can’t” and  “I tried.” When you say “I can’t,” the computer in your brain steps right up and supplies you with lots of reasons why you can’t, and it also blocks the creative part of your mind from figuring our how you can. Thus, the fact that you can’t comes true, further reinforcing your belief that you really can’t.  Instead of saying “I can’t”,  begin to ask “How can I?” and keep asking until your brain supplies you with the answer you want.  I once heard a “motivational speaker” say, “After you think you tried every possible method, and still haven’t succeeded, try another method.” You could have asked Thomas Edison about that.

“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

“Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.”

“I tried” is another favorite of people who feel they are at effect. The entire presupposition behind “I tried” is failure. No one who succeeds ever says “I tried.” They say “I will do it.” Trying begins with the belief in failure. To try, you must make pictures in your head of failing. My suggestion is to make pictures in your head of accomplishing whatever it is you want to accomplish. When you do this, you give your brain a signal to figure out how to do it. When you “try,” you give your brain a signal to figure out a way to fail.


In the 1st of the Star Wars episodes, Yoda instructed Luke Sky Walker (Harrison Ford), “There is no ‘try’. There is either ‘do’ or ‘do not.”

Why would someone focus on what they don’t want, and see themselves as being at effect of causes over which they have no control?   Fear. Scientology and NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming are controversially at odds with each other on this issue but it remains that you can take control of your responses to whatever situation you find yourself in.  And you can consciously control the choices you have in any situation. Choose to be successful.

For further reading:

Psycho Cybernetics,  Maxwell Maltz, MD

Introducing NLP, O’Connor and Seymour

Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor, scientist, and businessman who developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb.




Sending your patients an End of Year Benefit Reminder now will give you time to send any PreTreatment Estimates needed and still have time to seat any crowns before the end of the year.  

With just a few months left in the year, it’s time to remind patients of their unused benefits…to use or lose.   Your patients may have also forgotten about those unused insurance benefits that have been deducted from their salary all year and they will be lost if not used!

Don’t let your patients throw their money down the drain!

 Remember to Tweet and post on Facebook. New prospects looking for a dentist have unused insurance benefits, too,  and you just let them know where they can use them…in your office!

Here is a sample notice:

Subject:  You Could be Losing Benefits You’ve Already Earned.

Another year is winding down!  We wanted to remind you to make sure you take advantage of any unused dental insurance benefits you may have remaining since most companies do not allow you to carry these over to the next year. 

Not sure if you have benefits remaining? No problem!  Call us at (office telephone number) or email (office email address) to schedule your appointment, or if we can be of assistance in any way. We’re here for you!

Look forward to seeing you soon!

(Doctor’s Name)

Sample Tweet or Facebook post – Reminder: Take advantage of any unused Insurance  benefits before the end of the year. They don’t carry over. Call us. (phone) (124 characters)