How to be the best dentist for your patients
Written By David Silverberg
If you decided to become a dentist, congratulations! You’re embarking on a rewarding career path that shapes people’s lives by assisting them with oral health problems only you can fix. It not only offers a flexible schedule, but dentistry can also be a lucrative venture. Thing is, you need happy patients to enjoy recommendations and word-of-mouth buzz, and such great impressions don’t happen in a finger-snap. So we’re here to help by offering dentists advice on how to improve what they do and to hone several characteristics that elevate a good dentist to become great.
Be personable No matter the area of patient-focused medicine, this trait is a must. Being personable can put nervous patients at ease, and allow relaxed patients to have a smooth repartee with you. Displaying a sympathetic and comforting attitude goes a long way to ensuring your presence is a welcome sight, especially when a major surgery is afoot. We all recognize how going to the dentist isn’t the favourite thing for a lot of folks, especially children. Being personable and relating to patients stricken with fear or anxiety is always an ideal characteristic to hone. Some dentists may want to lighten their patient loads in order to have enough time with each patient to not only accomplish the task at hand but also have a few minutes to chat about this and that. Remember, office talk doesn’t have to be all about business. Put patients first. That’s a skill that patients find desirable in a dentist, as a 2014 British study found when they surveyed dental patients to learn about the characteristics they look for in a dentist. Chief among them were, “putting patient interests first and acting to protect them, respecting a patient's dignity and choices and having good technical ability.” This friendliness has to also extend to a dentist’s staff. Because you’re always interacting with people assisting you, from hygienists to secretaries, adopting an approachable personality can create a healthy environment in the office.
Strong communication skills Coupled with being personable is the ability to communicate to patients in a way that puts them at ease and is also clear about what’s ahead. For example, explaining to children what a cavity is in a simple way is essential to making sure they understand the procedure ahead. Of course, parents can do this after the appointment but hearing it from a dentist can help anxious child patients, too. Being able to explain technical information in an accessible way is an essential part of the dentist’s job. There is a lot of jargon in dentistry, and while throwing around those terms among staff is fine, using layperson language when speaking to patients will make everyone’s lives easier. One of the worst things a dentist can say to a patient in pain is, “You’ll get used to it.” That communication comes off as callous; instead, talk through a patient’s concerns and be explicit about the pain they may face and what the road to recovery may look like. Solving problems Problem solving skills are an integral tool in the toolbox for a dentist. Not every patient will have a dental issue with a clear solution. Sometimes a dentist needs to think outside the box to determine the best treatment for the patient. Such a skill comes with experience, so the more you practice, the more you’ll improve in this area.
Being technically top-notch It might sound obvious, but dentists need a skilled hand. A respected and sought-after dentist is someone who is excellent at what they do, whether as a general practitioner or a specialist.
If you’re feted for, say, root canal surgery that doesn’t spark any complications, patients will remember that. If you can apply a veneer with minimal pain and obtrusion, you’re winning. If you can see problems crop up during surgery or fillings, say, you’ll also earn kudos from patients who recognize how you exceeded their expectations. Technical skill may come quick to beginning dentists, but more often than not this ability needs to be developed as the years go on. Forward-thinking dentists will seek to fine-tune their surgical or analytical skills, which may mean continuous professional development and perhaps even learning from an experienced mentor.
Trusting your team A dentist can’t work in a silo. Trusting your team of hygienists and other dentists raises an office’s profile and tells the patient that you are all working as a team. Give your team the tools and knowledge to be successful and your own work will shine as a result. That being said, if someone isn’t pulling their weight, you have to step up as a leader and replace them with ambitious and results-driven colleagues. We know, this is easier said than done.
Have all the data available Guesswork and estimates don’t work very well in dentistry. Data rules in this profession, as it does in most medical practices. Accomplished dentists seek to collect all the details they can about a patient, whether that relates to a specific issue cropping up along their teeth, or is more holistically sought by learning about a patient’s medical history.
Don’t burn out When a crush of patients deluge your chair, it’s time to reassess how many bums are filling that seat daily. Scaling back patient load is advisable if you and your hygienist team feel burned out by taking on too many cases, especially if your office is small in comparison to other larger practices.
Patient overload can also create a mess at the office, with appointments overlapping one another and creating an overall negative experience for patients. Are all those patients, and the accompanying stress in dealing with their complaints, worth it?
Make extra money on the side No, we don’t mean you should start freelancing as an illustrator or sell toilet paper on eBay. Rather, did you know you can make extra cash by selling your dental scrap? Many dentists throw it out, without ever discovering their scraps’ cash value. If you need guidance on what your scrap is worth, get a free kit to allow our team of specialists to assess the value of your scrap.
Now that you are armed with advice on how to improve your bedside manner and skills as a dentist, go forth and bring oral-health happiness to your patients! If you’re looking for more advice on being a dentist, visit our Blog section anytime, and contact us if you have questions about the dental-scrap services we offer. David Silverberg