Smile -- it's contagious!

Office Manager Lisa M. Spradley explains how a simple act of kindness can change the whole outlook of your day.

By Lisa M. Spradley

My name is Lisa Marie Spradley, and I was born on April 5, 1968. This is all true (I am not even lying about my age!). These are the first things that we learn about most of our patients. When they first call, we get their name, phone number, address, and date of birth, and then we schedule a time for them to come in. When the patient arrives for the appointment, that is our opportunity to really get to know them and let them get to know us.

I am not talking about getting their medical history and insurance information, although I know we must have that information too. No, I am talking about making them feel like they have just made a new friend. With today’s busy schedule, we are all trying to get more done in a day, but we must not forget that our patients are real people with real stories. Imagine if the smile and “hello” they get from us is the only one they get that day!

Here is the scene: You arrive at work 10 minutes later than usual, so you are feeling a little stressed. It is Monday morning and you are in a hurry, trying to do everything that you think cannot possibly wait until later. When your doctor comes in shortly after you do, he informs you that Mr. Jones called him over the weekend with a toothache. Being the good doctor that he is, he told Mr. Jones to come in first thing Monday morning. This, of course, is on top of the bridge case you have scheduled and the new patient who may need a root canal, all of whom are also coming in first thing this morning!

Here come the assistants talking about their busy weekend and how tired they are. They need a cup of coffee and some time to wake up. Guess who gets to tell them about the schedule change? Are you feeling the vibe? At this moment, it may very well take an act of Congress to get you to smile when that new patient walks in the door, let alone to say “Good morning!” and not just throw paperwork at them and tell them what to fill out and where to sign.

As professionals, we must always remember that when a patient walks in the door, he or she is for all intents and purposes our new best friend. They are depending on us for quality and compassionate service, and we, quite literally, depend on them for our livelihood. So, remember to put your personal feelings and anxieties up on a shelf. The day will work itself out; it always does!

When the front doorbell chimes, say “Good morning!” with a smile on your face and in your voice. Take time to talk to the patient. Ask about their weekend, their family, and make note of special occasions or things that have special meaning in their lives. It will not only make the patient feel special, it will make you feel better too. It is amazing how a simple act of kindness can give your whole day a brighter outlook. This is true whether you are on the giving or receiving end of this kindness. It just makes us feel good.

So, let’s get back to a favorite subject of mine. What I did not mention in my introduction is that I was born two months after the birth of Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie. My dad, no surprise, is an Elvis fan. I am a huge fan myself, and I love to tell this story whenever I introduce myself. I include the side note that I, however, did not marry Michael Jackson, and I do not get to go upstairs in Graceland. What I do have is the ability to give you a smile and, hopefully, make you smile in return. (I can also take you to my office and show you my Elvis collection, if you are interested!)

Author bio
Lisa M. Spradley has been in the dental field for more than 15 years. She is an office manager for a general dentist and has her own dental consulting business, TCB Dental Consulting. She helps to train front office staff in effective time management techniques. She is an active, lifetime member with AADOM, and plans to receive her fellowship this fall. Lisa can be reached at

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