Collecting Money for Dentistry: Tips for Collecting Patient Balances

July 2022

Many dental team members shiver at the thought of having a conversation about money with a patient. Unfortunately, if your team does not collect what is owed from your patients, your practice will not thrive - and may struggle to survive. It is imperative that the dental team understands this truth. 


Here are some tips to smooth out the collection process:


Financial Policy

Before seeing any patient in your practice, you must have a solid, signed financial policy on file. The financial policy should state that the patient is ultimately financially responsible for their dental treatment. It should also contain in bold that your practice can only estimate what portion of the total fee their insurance will cover. 


Current Insurance Information and Fee Schedules

If your practice accepts insurance and/or participates in PPOs or HMOs, it is necessary to keep current and accurate information for all of your patients. There must be a system in place to verify benefits and eligibility for each patient prior to each appointment and to update the fee schedules as soon as there is a change. Having current and accurate information will allow your team to know what to expect from insurance and from the patient.


Treatment Plan/Financial Agreement

If your team is on top of current insurance information and fee schedules, having an accurate treatment plan with a financial agreement should be straightforward. Once the team knows the contracted fee, what insurance is “likely to pay,” and the “estimated” patient portion and/or copay, they will be able to provide this information to your patient. It is helpful to have the patient sign a paper or digital copy of their treatment plan and financial agreement and keep this on file. Just like the financial policy, this document should contain verbiage regarding the patient’s ultimate financial responsibility for the full amount of treatment if insurance does not cover their part.


“Mrs. Brown, the total fee for your crown is $1000. We have estimated your insurance should cover $500 of the total fee of $1000 since you have already met your deductible for the calendar year. Your estimated responsibility is $500. How would you like to take care of this today?” 


Which leads us to our next tip…..


Collecting Prior to Treatment


No one likes to be surprised with a hefty bill, especially after a 3 hour dental appointment. 


Mr. Green walks up to the counter with gauze inflated cheeks, hands full of additional gauze and other dental accouterments, irritable and tired and ready to get out of your office (even if your dentistry is gentle and pain-free). The front desk team member stops him and asks him for $1049.50. He puts down all of his dental things and digs for his wallet with a frustrated eye roll and a huff.

Even if your patient has been informed of their estimated amount due at the time of treatment, he/she will not be in the mood to pay at the end of their appointment. Have a system in place to collect prior to treatment. Whether it is collection of the patient’s estimated portion prior to scheduling or collection at the front desk before seating the patient, it is always a good idea to take care of this first. 

Dentistry is important to the health and welfare of all of your patients.  As a provider of this service, you deserve to be paid for the service and care you render to your patients.  Following these helpful tips will make this easier for your dental team. 


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A single cast metal crown restoration that is retained, supported and stablized by an abutment on an implant; may be screw retained or cemented.

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