All patients are capable of feeling vulnerable in the dental chair, no matter how gentle your chair-side manner. Some may have anxiety, claustrophobia, insecurity or a number of other issues that can make a dental visit a nerve-wracking experience. Every patient has unique needs and questions concerning their treatment, diagnosis, cost and time. Addressing these individual needs is vital for building relationships of trust with each patient. When a patient feels cared for and valued on a personal level, they will feel more comfortable communicating their needs and concerns with their dental health. Over a third of medical lawsuits are traced back to poor communication, while another third are attributed to a doctor’s poor attitude; this shows just how important it is to earn your patient’s trust!
Discovering Your Patient’s True Aims, Desires, and Concerns
It is important that patients are aware that you genuinely care about them as individuals, and that you will always encourage them to voice their questions and concerns. This can help patients to feel more comfortable in voicing their opinions and needs. One way to determine these needs and to start building their trust is through a preclinical interview, where you can ask about their current dental health problems, as well as how it is affecting their day-to-day life. Listening to their answers will help you identify which factors are a concern for the patient; including appearance, eating comfortably, or preserving their teeth, etc. With this information you will be able to focus your treatment plan according to the patient’s needs and lifestyle in a positive way. Remember to ask the patient how they feel about any proposed treatments. This approach can take longer but it demonstrates that you genuinely care, and it opens the way for them to ask more questions, creating greater trust and higher acceptance of any proposed treatment plan.
Building Trust During Treatment
When providing treatment, it isn’t always easy to talk to the patient, especially during complex procedures, but a just few words of reassurance will mean a lot to them. Even the most relaxed patient may feel anxiety and talking to them will help allay these fears. During treatment, regularly check if they are okay or need to take a break. Afterward, make sure the patient has all the information they need regarding their aftercare and let them know they are welcome to contact you or the practice at any time for further advice or care.
Why Following Up is Important
If a patient leaves without scheduling an appointment, or calls to reschedule, demonstrate your concern for their health by following up with them. It could be that they have further questions that are easily addressed, or they may simply have forgotten or do not fully understand why further treatment is important. This level of care will help your practice stand out from the crowd and will build patient loyalty.
Good ongoing communication and education should not be limited to appointments. More dental practices keep in touch with their patients through emails, social media, or blogs on their website. Don’t underestimate the value of providing information on dental health via the web. Providing details of any new treatments, special offers, or introducing new staff members can show patients a more personal side to visiting the dentist. It demonstrates to patients that you value their support and that your practice is up-to-date with the latest treatments so they know they will receive the best and most advanced dental care. It is also a valuable way for patients to learn more about you and your dental team, proving their dental health is in the hands of people who genuinely care.