Questions, Creative Thinking & Big Ideas 

think big

think big



  • Avoid surprises
  • Ask a question back



  When responding to patient’s questions

  • Wastes time
  • Seems like you are not listening
  • Seems like you don’t care
  • Frustrates them
When responding to the team’s questions
  • No ownership for the results
  • Does not empower others
  • You have to have all the answers
  • There might be a better way





  • “Why can’t I get a filling like the last time instead of a crown?”
  • “I’m not sure about this perio cleaning, why can’t I get a regular cleaning?”
  • “Why can’t I get a silver filling instead of white if insurance doesn’t pay for it?”
  • “Can I wait to do the crown and just do the filling right now?
  • “Do I have to get numb?”
  • “How long can I wait to do this treatment?”
  • “When do you think I should do this?”


  • “Can I take some extra time off next week?”
  • “Can I speak with you after work?”
  • “Will you talk to the hygienists about sterilizing their instruments?”
  • “Are we going to get health benefits any time soon?”
  • “Can I change my hours?”
  • “Can we order some more instruments?” 


Study why they might be asking the question to help you respond appropriately

When responding to patient’s questions When responding to the team’s questions
  • “What is your concern?”
  • “Why would you prefer that instead?”
  • “What are your goals for your mouth?”
  • “What do you hope to accomplish?”
  • “What do youthink about that?”
  • “What would you like to do?”
  • “Is it important to save your teeth?”
  • “Would you mind telling me more?”
  • “What would be comfortable for you?”
  •  “Do you think it is a good idea?”
  • “Why do you ask?”
  • “How did you handle it in the past?”
  • “Do you think that will work?”
  • “How will that impact the practice?”
  • “Do you have a preference?”
  • “What is the up side?”
  • “What would be best for everyone?”
  • “Is there anything I should be prepared for?”

Some things to remember

  • Don’t play this with your spouse
  • Don’t play 20 questions
  • Answer when you find out the reason
  • Watch your tone and inflection
  • Don’t overuse a clarifying question



When you believe it, you will see it!  When you believe something is impossible, your mind goes to work for you to prove why it is impossible.  But, when you believe, really believe something can be done; your mind goes to work for you helping you find ways to do it. Believing something can be done paves the way for creative solutions.  Creative thinking can be: When a financial manager devises a plan to give Sally (from a low income family) the smile that will win her the Miss Texas pageant, sells the “impossible” patient, or keeps the four kids that mom brought to the office occupied, and enjoys doing it.  It is having fun at work, turning an “undesirable” office into something to be proud of, doubling the number of new patients you see, and increasing your production in the process. Believing it can be done is the beginning of creative thinking.  Some suggestions to help you develop creative power: Eliminate the word “impossible” from your vocabulary.  Impossible, never, can’t, not in a million years, did that and it didn’t work, are all failure words.  Those thoughts set off a chain reaction of thoughts that prove to you that you are right. Prior to 1978, the dental industry regulated what type of dental sign and marketing a dentist could do (and there are still dentists that adhere to them).  Look at what has happened since.  That is an example of traditional thinking.  The traditional thinker’s mind is paralyzed.  He reasons, “It’s been this way for twenty years.  Therefore, it must stay this way.  Why risk it and change?” “Average” people have always resented progress.  Many voices protest at the idea of marketing dentistry.  Soft tissue management seemed too drastic.  But, “status-quo-ers” still don’t get it.  Fifty percent of America still does not seek annual dental care.  Why not?  Ask the average person what a sealant or veneer is.  Isn’t that what they put on countertops? Traditional thinking will kill the dental industry, as we know it today.  It is time for Creative Leaders, Managers, and Teams to work if dentistry is to survive in a way that dentists, their teams, and their patients can enjoy dentistry. Did you know that nothing grows in ICE?  If we let tradition “freeze” our minds, new ideas can’t sprout.  Propose one of the ideas below to someone in the dental industry and watch their reaction:

  • You must cut your overhead by 40% today.
  • We are moving in with Wal-Mart and must staff the office from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.
  • I can double your paycheck today and have fun doing it!
  • Case acceptance is 100%, no exceptions.
  • All Americans will seek dental care this year.

Whether these statements are practical or not isn’t the point.  What is important is how a person handles these propositions.  If they laugh at the idea and don’t give it a second thought (and probably 95% will laugh at you) chances are they suffer from tradition paralysis.  The one in twenty, who says, “I’m open to that,” or, “That’s an interesting idea,” or, “Tell me more about it” has a mind that’s open to creativity.   Traditional thinking is Enemy Number One for the dental team that is interested in future success.  Traditional thinking “freezes” your mind, blocks your progress, and prevents you from developing creative power.  Here are three ways to fight it:

  1. Become receptive to ideas.  Welcome new ideas.  Say, “I’m open to that.”  Success has very little to do with how smart you are.  “We may not be the smartest dental team, but we listen and soak up all the good ideas out there.”
  1. Be an experimental Team.  Expose yourself to new learning.  Try new ideas.
  1. Be progressive, not regressive.  Don’t say “That’s the way we did it where I used to work.  We ought to do it that way here.”  Ask yourself, “How can we do it better than we did it where I used to work?”

Questions we should continue to ask ourselves and expect an answer:

  • How can I do a better job today?
  • What can I do today to encourage my team?
  • What special favor can I do for one of my patients today?
  • How can I make a difference today?
  • How can I increase my personal efficiency?
  • What is great about our team?
  • What are the most exciting things going on at work?
  • What isn’t great yet?
  • What if we increased our new patients this year?
  • How can we bonus this month and have fun doing it?
  • How can the team make it better for our patients?

In our experience of working with hundreds of dental teams, we’ve found that the individual team members that ask questions of themselves, the team, and their patients are more successful than those that do not.




Believe it can be done.
Don’t let tradition paralyze your mind.  Shake off the ICE ICE BABY.
Ask yourself questions daily.
Practice asking questions and listening.
Stretch your mind.  Get stimulated.  Don’t let good ideas escape!