What does a ‘Free Dental Consultation’ really give you?

Ethics

A dentist may invite you for a ‘Free Dental Consultation’. Treat this with caution about what you’re likely to get – and what may be off the agenda.

Winning new customers is an effort, no matter what kind of product or service you’re dealing with. One way used by some dentists is to offer ‘Free Consultation’ in the hope of attracting and keeping new patients. Let’s consider what this really means for you and why you should think twice about free consultations.

The real agenda

Checking on your dental condition and offering treatment options should be done on a completely objective basis – with your sole interests in mind. However a free examination changes this equation. There may be a risk that the advice you get contains a ‘hidden agenda’ to generate immediate work for the dentist.

Free consultations are not done for philanthropy – there’s always a reason. Suppose that the correct recommendation is for no treatment, delayed treatment or lower-cost treatment. How does that balance with giving professional advice for no charge? It doesn’t.

A useful checklist

OK, so perhaps you appreciate that a fee-based consultation is better. What should you expect?

Firstly, understand that many dentists keep their consultation costs low and invest far more time than they get paid for. They simply seek the recognition that the job is worth a fee in return. Here’s a consultation protocol:

  • Spend time listening to the patient’s concerns, needs and expectations.
  • Undertake a thorough examination for dental health, function and aesthetics. Add x-rays if necessary.
  • Diagnose existing and potential ‘future’ problems.
  • Suggest a recommended treatment ‘approach.
  • Explain treatment risks and benefits.
  • Prioritize the treatment plan – giving options, time commitments and costs.
  • Prepare a report for the patient soon after the appointment.

Given the importance of your dental care, seeking a consultation is the right step. Take care that it is impartial and professional.

If you know exactly what you want or need and are ‘shopping for a better price’, then yes, a free first appointment may well be logical. But if you’re at the stage of looking for clinical evaluation and objective, unbiased advice – then it’s better to pay a fee and rely on professional integrity.

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