The hardest part of Dentistry usually has to do communication.
This is no different from other professions and relationships in which we are all involved.
Like other businesses communicating with coworkers, vendors and spouses (yeah, we can’t forget them now, can we?) is critical to a successful and smooth-running business.
Let’s get on to the dentist-specific communications.
Dental staff needs to be highly trained. The front office people need to make sure that they convey the practice philosophy and virtues of the doctor and help instill confidence so the patients feel comfortable and relaxed.
The clinical staff needs to take this to an even higher level. They need to key into the patient’s experience. For example, when I am wearing my magnification glasses while working on restoring dental implants, veneers or performing a root canal I might only see the patient’s mouth. The assistant will be watching the patient’s eye’s, hands and whole body to make sure that they are as comfortable as possible. Painless dentistry is not just the norm, it’s our expectation for every patient, so this communication is paramount. The assistant keys into the patient and comfort them through touch, words and even just the way they look at them.
The dentist and his assistant, like all surgeons, need to have their communications down. When I work with my assistant we know that we are firing on all cylinders when we don’t even have to talk. She might notice that we realize that we are into a more involved procedure and will immediately start setting up for the best treatment for the patient as I explain the situation to the patient and answer their questions without me saying anything to her.
There are also very important relationships and communications with the specialists and labs we use that have been made much easier with digital photography and the internet.
The biggest communication is that between the doctor and patient.
First and foremost our expectations must be established and aligned. Then we can move on into the treatment. It seems all too common these days that patients come into our office and tell us that their previous dentist was hard selling them on one treatment plan. I’ve found that rarely is there only ONE reasonable course of treatment for a patient. Communicating the pros and cons of each can help zero in on the RIGHT one.
Once again, while performing the procedures it’s not just my job to perform the best clinical dentistry, but also ensure that I am captaining the best experience for the patient. Sometimes that is telling the patient all of the details of what is happening. Engineers love this!
More often, as I learned from my father a better technique is offering a distraction for the patient so they barely even notice that they’re in a dentist’s office. This was a huge key to my father’s success and we try our best to keep this practice in our practice today! For kids he would screw up nursery rhymes and fairy tales on purpose to get the child’s mind on anything but the dentistry. For anxious adults his success was often just being a raconteur or engaging his dental assistant in a conversation that would take their mind away from the work being done, if that was something that would be effective for that patient. We use music for this purpose as well. Pandora makes it really easy to have different music playing all day long and we often get turned onto something new that we like.
There’s no ‘magic bullet’ that will work on everyone, so we commit ourselves to communicating with our patients as best as possible to help their experience exceed their expectations!