Can a Dentist talk to a patient while concentrating on the job at hand?
Dentists reach a point, after varying degrees of experience, where we know the clinical procedural sequence so well, that we are able to do the job and educate at the same time.

Some patients are quite “detail oriented” and they would like you to tell them what you are going to do, tell them what you are doing, and then tell them what you have done.
Then there are the “big picture” people (the vast majority of our patients) who only want to know how long. how much, and the end result. We can get to know who they are by learning body language and verbal cues… or even asking our patient. They will tell us.  In all cases it is helpful to find some subject to talk about (a one-way conversation, of course) to keep the patient distracted and thinking positive about the treatment, their comfort, and the outcome. The chairside assistant can play an important role in this.
Still interested? Please read my article on case presentation:
NO-ONE will disagree that any patient must be treated as a whole. I have never seen a tooth or a mouth walk into a dental office without a human attached to it.   A dentist must be a lot more than a clinical robot. To REALLY help a patient, we must serve them as a teacher, psychologist, caring person, and primarily, a LISTENER.
Here’s my formula: “ALF
Ask the right questions,
Listen carefully,
and give Feedback so the patient knows you understand.
“There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ question from a patient.”
Everyone on the team should be educators, on the same “channel”, and knowing how to fully support the dentist.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY,  President Washington! 

280 years old   February 22, 1732-2012

Dentistry has come a long way.

There must be dozens of portraits of George Washington. I have never seen any with him smiling. Those darn Hippo dentures with the spring openers must have been painful.

Light from a red laser scans a resin reproduction of the 1789 lower denture originally carved from Hippopatamus ivory for George Washington.
Here’s a fascinating article by Michelle Keib about George’s oral condition:

Was the throat infection that took George Washington’s life caused by colonies of bacteria that grew in his world famous dentures?

By all reports Washington was a very athletic, strapping man who was taller, (at 6’ 2 ½”,) larger, and stronger than the average countryman of his time. So how is it that, at the age of 67, he became ill and died in only 3 days? Let’s take a look at that question.

George Washington’s suffered from both dental problems and various illnesses in his younger life. He lost his first adult tooth at the young age of 22. By the time he became President, in 1789, at age 57, he had only one tooth remaining, despite daily brushing, use of dentifrice, and mouthwash. At his inauguration, Washington was wearing a full set of dentures which were attached to his final tooth.
Modern historians suggest that mercury oxide, which he was given to treat illnesses such as smallpox and malaria, probably contributed to his tooth loss. He suffered from headache, fever, and severe muscle and joint pain. Over the ensuing years there were attacks of malaria, flu, and rheumatic complaints. Combined with what were most likely genetically poor teeth, and the stress of being Commander of the Continental Army caused constant unrelieved toothaches. In some instances, one cannot help but wonder if his teeth might have been the source of the chronic infections he suffered. His dental and health problems were intertwined. Were there abscessed partial roots still present? His diaries contain multiple references to dental pain.
Washington had frequent dental problems during his tenure as commanding general of the Continental Army. A famous painting of Washington in 1779 shows a scar on his left cheek, believed to be the result of a badly abscessed tooth. One correspondence from Washington to a dentist in 1783 was a request for material to take an impression of his mouth. He would then send the impression back to the dentist for a denture to be made. Washington was treated by no fewer than eight prominent dentists who practiced in colonial America, but his favorite was Dr. John Greenwood.
Dr. Greenwood’s dentures had a base of hippopotamus ivory carved to fit the gums. The upper denture had ivory teeth and the lower plate consisted of eight human teeth fastened by gold pivots that screwed into the base. The set was secured in his mouth by spiral springs. The upper and lower gold plates were connected by springs which pushed the upper and lower plates against the upper and lower ridges of his mouth to hold them in place. Washington actually had to actively close his jaws tightly to make his teeth bite together.
Washington complained to Greenwood about discoloring of his dentures. Dr. Greenwood suggested that Washington refrain from soak his dentures in Port wine and minimize his drinking of wine entirely while wearing his dentures. Had there been a product like SonicBrite in the late 1700’s, the President certainly wouldn’t have had to remove his dentures to enjoy his favorite wine.
His final dentures were made in 1798, the year before he died. This set had a swaged gold plate with individual backing for each tooth and was fastened together by rivets. Today, the lower denture is on display in the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, and another the set was donated to the University of Maryland Dental School in Baltimore, the oldest dental college in the world.


You can kill a good presentation by trying to explain too much. You know what the patient needs and he/she probably knows too.

Most of your patients will be big picture” processors. They will want to know the BASICS- how long, how much, and the result. They may even tell you that. You can determine that from their metaphors and body language. The few “detail oriented” patients will be the accountants, engineers,… and other dentists. If you give too many details in your presentation, you will open Pandora’s Box for even the “Big Picture” patients to start a litany of questions. Avoid such statements as, “…then the Hygienist will scale, root plane and irrigate….”, or “… after I prepare your teeth, I’ll take some impressions, and….”

[ The Hygienist “removes disease” and you are “creating a great new smile”. It’s that simple! ]

There’s a time and a place for those detail explanations, but it is not during the case presentation. For now just concentrate on the value and the benefits. KISS. “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

Make your presentations well planned-out and concise. Utilize visual aids and social confirmations.

Picture your desired OUTCOME, then trim away the excess like a Michelangelo:

A 15th Century admirer looked in awe at one of Michelangelo’s sculptures and asked the maestro how he could create such a magnificent sculpture from a block of marble. Michelangelo said, “I saw the angel in the marble and I carved away the excess until I set him free.”

Here’s a humorous example:

The young doctor had just completed his first Treatment Plan Presentation for a big cosmetic makeover. He followed all the rules given by his coach. He demonstrated with study models, radiographs and photographs, and clearly detailed to his patient every situation requiring treatment. His presentation was planned, orchestrated and smoothly presented.

He explained an ideal treatment to his patient which the doctor had estimated at $22,500. The young doctor did not yet have a financial coordinator and had to present the investment himself. It was his first case over a few thousand dollars. He went into great detail then froze and could not give the fee.
The patient seemed impressed with the understanding that the doctor showed of his dental condition, and the benefits from the proposed treatment and told him that. “Doc, I realize that I neglected my dental condition for a long time and that I need a lot of work………..but honestly, I have no insurance and I can’t go over $25,000.”
With that the doctor snapped back, “That’s exactly what it will cost!”

KNOCK KNOCK! It’s a New Patient….

Do you hear that sound? That’s more than your phone ringing- that’s OPPORTUNITY knocking at your door.
The way your telephone is answered often determines whether the caller will take the next step and schedule an appointment……. or not.
How important is that first contact that a patient has with your office? In four (4) seconds a caller will determine if she/he likes YOU, if YOU are friendly, if YOUR office is professional, if she/he will have fun… or fear, if she/he is making the correct choice. All the greatness in skill and service you offer will be judged by the caller in the first contact with the person who answers the telephone for you. Your entire image, and all you worked to achieve, will be projected there and then. YOU are reflected in her/his image.
It should be pre-determined whose job it is to be the first person to answer the telephone, and when that’s not possible, who’s next and so on. Any team member that can answer the phone must be trained in the telephone protocol of the dental practice. Give them the training! And make that “phantom call” every once in a while to hear what your patient hears.
 An office has to have a “script” for answering the telephone. Whomever does answer the phone must follow the practice’s telephone protocol.

Here is a complete, professional, and friendly protocol:

1. The Welcome (Make it fun, unique, and memorable.)
2. Identify the Office (Office name and doctor(s))
3. Identify the Speaker (Sound like you are happy and excited to take the call.)
4. Call to Action
And here is a simple example you can adapt (customize):
“It’s a great day here at Dr. Smiths’ ‘Healthy Smiles’.
This is Susan; how may I help you today?”
This seems so obvious that you may wonder why I bother to post this. I post this because nine out of ten dental offices I call still answer with something as mundane as, “Doctor’s Office”.
1. “Would you spell your name for me please?”
2. "In case we get disconnected may I have your phone number?"
 After giving you this information, a rapport will be established and the caller will feel engaged.
 3. "Which one of our patients referred you?" (Useful information and a subliminal promotion.)
“That’s great! They’re one of our favorites. We’ll have to thank them.'"
We ask that question because so many of our patients are referred by others." "We hope you will be doing that, too."
  "Are you seeing us to establish a new relationship or do you have a specific concern or problem?" 



"Is there anything in your medical history that would influence your dental treatment?"
7. End the call on a high note, telling the patient how excited you are to meet them.
No matter how "busy" you may be, there will always be enough time to create a great memorable FIRST IMPRESSION.





Are you in control (“at cause”) of your conditions, or believe that you have little or no control (“at effect”). Do you believe that “the economy” has control over your success? Do the “Insurance Companies” determine your dental treatment… regardless of what you NEED?

Do you know people who continually place themselves at effect and feel they are a victim of circumstances? The idea that other people are responsible for how they feel and act : “That person made me angry.”, or “My car is costing me money.”, or “People don’t want to spend money on dentistry today.” Those who live their lives at effect often see themselves as victims with no choices whatsoever. The irony is that they do have choice and they have chosen not to choose but to be responsive to whatever is given to them.

Putting yourself at cause is about taking responsibility – recognizing that you have the ability to respond rather than just react to whatever life throws at you. You can make things happen; you have the power to change things. You always look for the opportunity and you move towards achieving your desired OUTCOMES. If things are not unfolding as you would like, you take action and explore other possibilities. Above all, you know you have choice in what you do. This is the time to do something different- stand out from the crowd.

People who think they are at effect use words like “can’t” and “I tried.” When you say “I can’t,” the computer in your brain steps right up and supplies you with lots of reasons why you can’t, and it also blocks the creative part of your mind from figuring our how you can. Thus, the fact that you can’t comes true, further reinforcing your belief that you really can’t. Instead of saying “I can’t”, begin to ask “How can I?” and keep asking until your brain supplies you with the answer you want. I once heard a “motivational speaker” say, “After you think you tried every possible method, and still haven’t succeeded, try another method.” You could have asked Thomas Edison about that.

“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

“Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.”

“I tried” is another favorite of people who feel they are at effect. The entire presupposition behind “I tried” is failure. No one who succeeds ever says “I tried.” They say “I will do it.” Trying begins with the belief in failure. To try, you must make pictures in your head of failing. My suggestion is to make pictures in your head of accomplishing whatever it is you want to accomplish. When you do this, you give your brain a signal to figure out how to do it. When you “try,” you give your brain a signal to figure out a way to fail.

In the 1st of the Star Wars episodes, Yoda instructed Luke Sky Walker (Harrison Ford), “There is no ‘try’. There is either ‘do’ or ‘do not.”

Why would someone focus on what they don’t want, and see themselves as being at effect of causes over which they have no control? Fear. Scientology and NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming are controversially at odds with each other on this issue but it remains that you can take control of your responses to whatever situation you find yourself in. And you can consciously control the choices you have in any situation. Choose to be successful.

For further reading:

Psycho Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz, MD

Introducing NLP, O’Connor and Seymour

Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor, scientist, and businessman who developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb.

WHAT ‘UNIQUENESS” ARE PATIENTS LOOKING FOR TODAY? What would make YOU stand out and be sought out?


What would make YOU stand out and be sought out?
I attended the Miami Dental Expo last week and I want to report to you on what the “hottest” dental niche areas appeared to be. I’m sure you understand that now, more than ever, you need to stand out and be able to offer not only EXCELLENCE, but also DIFFERENCE. In this sluggish economy, where there is a perception of “financial doom”, (I personally don’t believe in that.), dental consumers have a tight hold on their wallets and reports of dental service acceptance show a concerning drop.
What are YOU doing now to offer a unique service? Your First Class Service and Patient Engagement are expected as basic “givens”. But what is your clinical niche? Are YOU the dental practice they must go to? Are you the only practice around that offers “invisible” braces, or mini-implant dentures or Nutritional Analysis ? And if so, are you promoting your unique brand to its full capacity? Are you the “Holistic Dentist”, the “Snooze Dentist”, the “Soft Tissue Management Dentist”?
The attendees at the Miami meeting seemed to be most interested in the following:
  • Holistic Dentistry       It’s a lot more than elimination of amalgam-mercury fillings..
  • Storing Teeth for future Stem Cell Usage
  • Patient Engagement and Marketing.       
  • Sleep Apnea solutions                                   Many people believe they have the problem
In discussions at the booths and while walking around I found the answer to be “supply meeting demand”. The doctors felt that their patients were most interested in these areas and were either asking about them or responded very positively when surveyed by team members. The doctors wanted to learn more because of their patients’ interest.
Remember how it was about 15 years ago when teeth whitening (aka “bleaching”) was the “new kid on the block”? If you had an “in-office” Bright Smile or Zoom machine, you could schedule an operatory all day long with patients from near and far. And then we had the “porcelain age of dentistry”, when the media made patients very image-conscious for “smile enhancements” at any cost, and the public was more confident in the future of the economy . Teeth whitening is now offered in nearly every practice, and in most as a discounted loss leader. Cosmetic crowns and veneers are now a lower patient priority.
If you have a unique brand, promote it, let it make you famous! If you need one, follow the trend setters and pick up on the areas that were popular at the meeting…. or better yet- crate a new niche by finding some unfulfilled patient need, and supplying it.
Benjamin Franklin