NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR PATIENT

Never assume” is always very wise advice, and may be extra true in dentist/patients relationships. There are techniques to “pre-qualify” a patient’s initial interest, but that should not discourage the dentist from giving an honest and sincere presentation of the patient’s real needs.
 

I like to see a dentist introduce him/herself with, How may I help you today?” You may have some information from the patient’s registration, but often you will get a better (or different) understanding from a personal response.
ALF= Ask questions, Listen, give Feedback.
 
Here’s a classic example of dentist disengagement-
A few years ago I witnessed an experienced dentist conduct this exchange with a new patient.
 
Patient (an 85 y/o plainly dressed woman with severely eroded anterior teeth and a “closed bite”: “Doctor I would like to have a nice smile. I think I need all my teeth capped.”
 
Dr. S (A good clinician with very poor communication skills) “You know, that’s going to cost over $20,000.” (He ASSUMED from the patient’s age and appearance that she was just fantasizing and would waste his time.)
 
The lady looked him right in the eyes and said, “I thought it might have cost over $30,000.”
 
She completed and paid for her exam visit…. and never came back to him. When she left his office I explained to him how he probably lost the patient and even worse, injured the self image of his patient. She (and I) interpreted his callous statement as an insult, and even if she lived another 5 years, or 6 months after treatment, she will have realized her dream of “a nice smile”. What right did he have to destroy her self-value and steal her dream? She may have won a lottery, or perhaps her children may have decided to give her a birthday present… but Listen to your patient.
 
This is a true, actual example. Here’s the outcome of this story. The woman went to another Dentist in the area (Dr. B) who kept an open mind and helped her achieve her dream.
 

CAN A DENTIST WALK AND WHISTLE AT THE SAME TIME?

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: http://wp.me/p1OXM3-5R
 
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.