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Be aware of others’ fears and concerns. If you are not able to be empathetic to your patients, then maybe you are in the wrong profession.
Do you ever think about your patients and what they fear the most? Most of us do not. We are too swamped with work and do not have the luxury of time to really stop and listen to what they are saying. We miss what they are not saying.
Patients are fearful that they need painful procedures. They are also afraid what the bill is going to be when they leave your office. Think about it regarding your own personal dental care. Some of you are getting your care for free or at a discount where you work. That is a benefit. But for some, that can go sideways if you get upset with the care you are getting. That is a tough issue to swallow when you work in the same place. But that is an entirely different issue for another time.
Instead, I want you to think about a time when you had pain and went to your dentist. He/she may have told you that you need a root canal, gum graft, or crown lengthening…you fill in the blank. That can put you in an anxious mindset. Then, there is the issue of the cost. I know that most of you do not like to talk about money, but it is unavoidable.
Some of us are living paycheck to paycheck. Yes, you have a job. Yes, you have benefits. But dental care is expensive. How did you feel when you were told that the 2 crowns cost $4000? Ouch! Or that the 2 implants cost $5,000. Let us not forget that you now need a new mouth guard to sleep in since your appliance may no longer fit. Wow. It feels like a punch in the stomach. Most people do not have that kind of money lying around. It means more debt. Those who cannot afford it go to cheaper dental practices, dental schools, or just have their teeth removed when the pain is too great.
I share this because I want you to think about it. Do you realize how intimidating this is for a patient? I am not asking you to solve the problem. I am just asking you to look at this from their perspective. You will be more compassionate towards their plight. Customer service really matters. If you are not able to be empathetic to your patients, then maybe you are in the wrong profession.
Do not get me wrong. I get it…this is a business. We cannot survive on providing free dental care. I am not asking that. All I want is for you to not be so rushed with talking about money, because it makes you uncomfortable. We live in a society where the “haves” have dental care and the “have nots” do not. It is only going to get worse.
Regardless of income, your patients deserve respect and understanding about this issue. To have one’s teeth removed because you cannot afford an implant has major ramifications to one’s self esteem. Think about if you lost your front tooth and could not afford an implant. People would judge you differently. When someone has a great smile and good teeth, we think they are successful, confident, and a good person. Unfortunately, society does not think that way when someone is missing a few teeth. They may think the person is lazy and a failure.
I mention this as you are on the front lines. You can make all the difference in the world just by listening. Think about how you deal with patients when they need expensive or painful procedures. Are you as compassionate as you can be? But that is something that can be changed.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me how you manage situations like this in your practice.