What is the first impression your new dental patient has of you?

What is your patient thinking when he or she first meets you? I hate to say it, but you need to think about this. What do you see when you look in that proverbial mirror? Here are three categories to keep in mind when making a first impression.

“You have got to be kidding! This teenager is going to be taking care of my teeth? I am old enough to be her grandma. And … what is with the body piercings? How many is enough? Why aren’t her parents telling her to stop putting so many holes in her head?”

Is your new patient thinking like this when he or she first meets you? I hate to say it, but you need to think about this. What do you see when you look in that proverbial mirror?

Here are three categories we are going to examine in this article…

  • Hygiene

  • Timeliness

  • Maturity

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Now don’t get offended … because this may hurt a little. Some folks who work in the practice simply don’t realize how important it is to have good hygiene of their own (be honest … you can probably think of someone right now who fits this description). Fingernails should be kept trimmed and neat. As a patient, even with your gloves on, those long nails you love scare me to death. The last thing I want is to be scratched inadvertently (yes, I am a wimp who doesn’t want another reason to be scared to go to the dentist).

I shouldn’t have to be worried about your hygiene and bathroom etiquette. After all, your hands are going into my mouth. If you don’t take care of yourself, I wonder how well you are sterilizing the equipment between patients. I know. You probably think I am ridiculous or that I have some kind of issue. Maybe I do … but then again … maybe I am saying what a lot of your patients are thinking. Think about it.


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Do you and your work colleagues show up on time for my appointment? I don’t want to waste my paid time off sitting in your waiting room because you are running behind. If you are running late, have someone at the front desk call me with as much advance notice as possible. Otherwise, I will just get nasty and angry … and that’s not a good way to start a relationship. It is, however, a great way to lose me as a patient.

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Maturity is not about age. I want a professional working on me who I can trust. I do not want to hear about your gossip and/or your drinking or partying over the weekend. Do you realize that you shoot yourself in the foot every time you show what a gossiper and/or party person you are? Patients are not deaf. We listen to everything because we are bored, trapped, and can’t talk since you have all this stuff in our mouths. Pay attention to what you say. Do not say anything you would not want your boss to overhear. And, for Pete’s sake, do not talk about other patients in front of us. That is my pet peeve. Respect my privacy. It’s not too much to ask.

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These are the things that can make or break a relationship, whether it is from the very first visit or with a long-term patient. Don’t act like you do at home with your family or friends. This is where you work. Respect that.

Have I ticked you off yet? I can already see the hate e-mail filling up my mailbox. If that’s the case, why would I write this and ask for it to be published? Because, sometimes you, the professional, forget that we, the patients, have eyes and ears. You are the brand. How you come across with your attire, hygiene, maturity, timeliness and expertise is what makes you the professional you are. Stop shooting yourself in the foot and take a good look in that mirror. Your patients will appreciate it … and so will your practice’s bottom line.

If you agree or disagree with what I think or have questions for me, drop me a line at diana2@discussdirectives.com