You’ve probably heard at least a handful of people in your life talk about how much they “hate” the dentist. Over the years, it seems to have become almost a running joke of sorts.
Compared to how people talk about going to the doctor, it seems like there is far more anxiety associated with visits to the dentist, even when they aren’t getting any extreme dental work done. What makes trips to the dentist so unpleasant? Why do people have so much fear and dread when their 6-month check-up rolls around?
While there are obvious answers like occasional uncomfortability and not being able to move/talk during a cleaning, I believe most of the anxiety stems from issues in leadership and in the patient-provider relationship.
Here are some of the biggest reasons why I believe people hate the dentist as well as tips for dentists to improve their patients’ experiences.
Poor Patient-Provider Relationships
One underlying reason that people feel so uncomfortable in the dental office is because they don’t have any real relationship with their dentist. Outside of the awkward small talk every 6 months during their routine cleanings, most people don’t have any contact with their dentist. They often don’t know their dentist’s hobbies outside of work, names of his or her spouse and children, or really any personal information that can help build a more solid and comfortable relationship. The same is also true when it comes to information the dentists know about their patients.
While it may seem trivial, forming a better patient-provider relationship can have a great impact in making patients feel more relaxed about their visit to the dentist. One way dentists can do this is by taking more time to get to know their patients and making a greater effort to remember the personal information they share. Being able to recall stories and names in the next visit can make the patient feel seen, heard, and cared for, all helping to relax them during their visit.
Dental work is obviously quite invasive, making it common for patients to feel vulnerable and nervous. For this reason, it’s imperative that patients feel they can trust their dentist.
As we mentioned above, improving the patient-provider relationship is one way to build this level of trust. Another way dentists can help build trust is by taking the time to talk with patients and answer any questions they have about the process before laying their chair back and getting to work. Opening up the dialogue and giving the patient the opportunity to communicate their concerns before diving in can make all the difference in easing their nerves.
This ability to recognize the patient’s thoughts and feelings before focusing on the procedure is one of the greatest signs of emotional intelligence for healthcare providers.
Scared of Negative Feedback
Last but certainly not least, patients often fear the dentist when they know they have not taken the best care of their teeth since their last cleaning. Feelings of shame and fear of negative feedback can quickly breed anxiety, causing people to want to avoid their next dental appointment.
It’s important for dentists to communicate empathy and understanding when interacting with patients. Rather than judging or speaking coldly when a patient’s dental hygiene is lacking, make an effort to reassure the patient and kindly share better practices they can follow to keep their teeth and gums healthy.
Dentists: Do you exhibit emotional intelligence in your practice? Are you equipped to guide your team toward better results and greater patient satisfaction?
Here are a few ways to get started:
- Take my FREE leadership assessment to see how your leadership style and people management skills stack up against best practices.
- Learn more about my 6-session coaching package, designed to help you craft a vision for your practice, achieve buy-in from your team, and execute the necessary goals to bring you towards success.
- Learn more about my 12-session coaching package, which features all the benefits of the 6-session package in addition to 6 weeks of emotional intelligence coaching to help you become an extraordinary leader and foster more positive relationships with your team and patients.
About Dr. Wilkerson, PD, MBA, PCC.
Do you want to increase your impact? Do you want to increase profits under your leadership? Do you want to develop and use your abilities to the fullest to better connect with and lead others? Executive Leadership Coaching covers these bases. Dr. Jerrund Wilkerson, PD, MBA, PCC, has more than 30 years of successful executive leadership coaching in the United States and internationally.
As a licensed pharmacist, he is particularly passionate about helping develop effective leaders in the healthcare community. Dr. Wilkerson has coached and trained thousands of managers and leaders. He is a certified coach and member of the John Maxwell Leadership Team.
CLICK HERE to learn more.