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For a successful practice, it starts with the art of communication

Voices from dentistry
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Location, location, location — words to live by in the world of real estate and business. Even with practices being the very epitome of small business in America today, I propose a new edict to live by in the dental world — communication, communication, communication. Interactions, through any electronic or personal means play an integral role in every facet of running an office.

First and foremost, before a patient enters the office, everyone from the front desk to the dental assistants must be on a similar wavelength as you. This does not mean that your team members must be in complete 100% agreement with how the office is run, but they must be cognizant of their role in the overall running of the office. And the team must be afforded the opportunity to be listened to and contribute to the overall direction. A dentist is not an island unto themselves as we can work only as well as our team. Ask any of the assistants and front desk members that I have been lucky enough to work with. They will tell you that my mantra of “teamwork makes the dream work” or “one team; one dream” gets stated almost hourly. How is this bond forged? You guessed it! Communication!

Once you and your team are running like a well-oiled machine, communication must be established with the patient next. From the initial meet and greet to discussing treatment plans, it is a fundamental truth that the dentist has open and honest discussions with patients about their expectations. 

Let’s face facts – many of the patients that we see have a deep fear of the dentist. Be it fear of injections, the sound of the drill or the bill at the end of the procedure, the patient has to overcome a lot to sit in the chair. Most dentists will gloss over these beliefs and refer most questions to the front desk. However, if we as professionals, take five extra minutes to explain the subtle nuances of suggested treatment – you would be thoroughly surprised that a lot of barriers breakdown (and invariably an increase in case acceptance) once proper communication channels are established. Be aware though, consistency is key! Anecdotally, I have had many patients switch service from their regular dentist to my service as I would pick up their phone call during non-business hours; whereas the other dentists chose to let their answering service respond.

Communication is not merely on the verbal level as patients are probably the most observant creatures on the planet. From the organization of the waiting room to the cleanliness and professionalism you exude upon entering the treatment room, patients are keenly aware of the smallest details. Patients’ fears are often allayed upon seeing a knowledgeable, confident dentist. Knowing that “yes, I am in the hands of a dentist who knows what they are doing” is often a better tool for case acceptance than any visual or marketing tool.

Communication does not end within the dental practice. As a new dentist, you must be aware of how you interact with those not within the day-to-day dental setting. Although it is a small detail, when communicating with the lab – it is imperative that niceties such as “please help fabricate a lower partial, thank you” are maintained. It takes merely a few strokes of the pen – however, this will set you apart from the rest. Dental lab technicians will appreciate the acknowledgement of their efforts. To this end, regardless of position, always maintain a positive, unpretentious means of communication as you never know how the entire team can come to help.

I will leave you with the words from the esteemed Albert Einstein who said that he “speak[s] to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” In short, these are merely the humble musings of a dentist who worked in varying capacities in diverse locations around the West Coast. Hopefully, these lessons learned will prevent young dentists from committing communication errors.

About the author

Author image for Dr. Amir KazimDr. Kazim is a member of the California Dental Association and the Harbor Dental Society. His comments were originally published August 6, 2020 in the New Dentist Now blog.