THE SUCCESS OF a modern dental practice is entirely dependent on how effective it is at influencing its patients to say yes to optimal dental health.

It’s simple consumer economics: No matter how exceptional the practice, if the patient rejects the recommended treatment and won’t (or can’t) pay us more than it costs us to provide it, dentistry — or that particular practice, at any rate — no longer exists.

Case presentation has thus evolved significantly in recent decades thanks to broader access to dental information and patients increasingly viewing proper dentistry as a core component of their overall health care.

The traditional case presentation method was simple: the problem-solution disease model. Something’s broken? Fix it. There’s a disease? Remove it.

The most common patient objection, quite reasonably, was fear of dentistry being exquisitely painful.

Then came the era of “prevention rather than repair” — a result of more widespread dental insurance coverage and, not coincidentally, the rise of the cosmetic revolution once the Baby Boomers got old enough to value their appearance.

They accepted regular hygiene checkups as commonplace and even began to elect smile enhancements that were not medically necessary. Communication now entailed education and more education — bombard the patient with information. Losing teeth is no longer a certainty? You don’t say!

Today, case presentation has entered the era of “comfortable influence.” This entails the entire dental team offering evidence of the systemic link between oral health and overall health. No one wants to get sick, look old or die early, after all, and a message of “oral health is the gateway to full-body wellness” is sure to meet with a positive reception.

Patients, naturally, will say yes more often if they regard their dentist as interested in their well-being — as a trusted partner and not a condescending teacher or salesperson.

Demonstrating your care for your patient involves learning to listen without judgment and showing that you understand how they see the situation before telling them how you see it.

When you take the time to learn about patient’s long-term health-care plan, they’re much more apt to trust your intentions. Trust, of course, breeds case acceptance, with you becoming an active part of the patient’s decisions. Your power to influence is strong — but optimally, it will help your patients make their own decisions with as little coercion as possible.