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What People Say About Dentists Behind Our Backs

Interacting with people is one of the most, um… interesting parts of being a dentist.  Patients can make you feel like the greatest health care provider in the world or a low form of smelly pond scum.  They can refer you all their friends and family or sue you for all the money you have.  Navigating the sea of personalities out there is never dull and I’ve learned to enjoy the challenge.

I’ve recently discovered a tool to help me navigate that sea of personalities.  You see, we totally lose sight of what it’s like to be a patient.  We forget what it’s like to fear a needle or wonder why the impression material has to taste so bad.  I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful to spend time researching what people are thinking when they’re facing the business end of our handpiece.  I’m able to give them a better experience by anticipating their fears and pet peeves.  What is this tool that gives me such insight?

I’m a fan of Reddit.  It’s a great place to laugh, learn, and laugh some more.  The website works by users posting opinions, news items, photos, etc. and then other users comment and vote on their relative awesomeness.  It would be weird if I asked my patients detailed questions about their experience as they were leaving the office.  But Reddit lets me get unbiased, raw opinions of the public without the awkwardness.  Here’s some of the things I’ve picked up:

Pamper them during a cleaning

If you clicked on the comments to the left, you saw some passionate opinions about how often people get to rinse during a prophy.  I had no idea people cared that much about swishing with water.  Two of the Redditors loved the air/water spray followed by “kissing” the suction.  They love it.  Other comments described the uncomfortable feeling of only being allowed to rinse with a single cup of water.  My conclusion?  Give your patient breaks during the prophy using the air/water spray and suction technique.  If they dislike that, allow them to sit up and take the time to rinse out thoroughly.  Offer more water when the cup is empty.  Spending that extra minute or two to keep them comfortable is what will make them more likely to talk to their friends and family about how great you are.

Don’t scold them for poor hygiene

Whoah, check  out those comments and you’ll see people hate to be told their hygiene stinks.  Show this to your hygienists and remind them that there is a difference between encouragement and scolding.  “I’m sorry this cleaning is bothering your gums.  There’s a lot of plaque and gingivitis which can make them very sensitive.  We’ll discuss ways to improve your home care when we’re done.”  That is a nice way to tell a patient to step up their hygiene without making them feel like a loser.  Not only will they not want to refer you more patients, they may not want to return at all.  Motivate, don’t reprimand.  Check out techniques like the Compliment Sandwich to learn more.

Oh, there’s so much more to discover.  Check out Reddit and do a search on dentists.  Fortunately there are a handful of dentists, dental students, hygienists, and assistants who frequent the site to set the record straight.


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