As illogical as it is, we orthodontists occasionally have to deal with patients who expect money back when we finish early. There are several ways to handle this issue easily and with no stress. The examples below may be appropriate and mixed and matched depending on the question and mom’s attitude. Try a few of these and let me know how it goes.

One more thing – more often than not our office manager handles these questions but there are times when the doctor needs to speak up.


Scenario 1

Mom (nice but probing): Doctor, you said Johnny’s case would take 24 months but we are only 14 months in and you’re saying we are finished. Does it cost the same as we discussed??

Me: Yes mam! We don’t charge extra for finishing early!


Scenario 2

Mom (stern): Doctor, you said Johnny’s case would take 24 months but we are only 14 months in and you’re saying we are finished. I’m not paying full price when it didn’t take as long as you said it would.

Me: I can understand your confusion but the estimated treatment time was just that, an estimate. Johnny did so well with his elastics and brushing and all that, we were able to get the smile you were promised ahead of schedule! Isn’t that great? Parents are usually elated when we finish early and their child no longer has to wear braces!

Mom: But you said it would take longer than this so I shouldn’t have to pay any more.

Me: The financing option you chose has nothing to do with treatment time. We offer extended financing with no interest as a service because we want braces to be affordable. The only purpose of the financing is to make braces fit into the family budget.

Mom: That’s not fair. I’m not paying the same and getting less.

Me: No problem. We can leave the braces on so that you get all the months of braces you expect and want.

Mom: Ummm, wait… No… Never mind.


Scenario 3

Mom (sincere): Now that Johnny is getting his braces off, do I still have to make monthly payments?

Me: Mam, honestly I don’t know what your financial agreement is but we will stick to whatever we agreed to. Isn’t it great that we don’t demand payment in full before we take the braces off? You trust me with your child and I trust you to take care of the finances! Mutual trust is great for all of us!


Occasionally I use the analogy of a contractor charging extra for finishing a house early or FedEx charging extra for getting a package there faster along with repeating that finishing early is a great thing, affordable financing is a big deal and finally, that we can always leave the braces on if the parent so chooses. There are the occasional outliers but most people are smart enough to get the point most of the time.

4 thoughts on “You Finished Early. Do I Get Money Back? – Scripting

  1. Ben,

    To help avoid these comments we try to head mom off at the pass. Our financial coor meets or calls all resp parties when we rec removal and a balance remains. She comments how awesome it is that Jimmy has finished faster than planned and asks if mom would like to pay the account off in full or con’t with her monthlys. Most continue monthly payments and little hassle after that.

  2. Good stuff! It’s great when you have effective systems in place. Thanks for sharing John!

  3. Just to clarify, if you have a patient that finishes treatment early, you do not make the patient pay in full prior to debanding? How do you ensure that you continue to receive payments?

  4. Great question.
    We take the braces off when the treatment is done. I am totally against “financial wires” – keeping a patient in braces after treatment is done to insure parent. Most people will pay most of the time. And most of the bad payers will stop paying in the first 12 months. We need to treat others the way we would treat our own family and keeping patients in braces longer than they need to be is not appropriate.

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