Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 08 Dental Patient Connection 1

Mouth problems lead to “authentic” interaction with dentist: Are you authentic?

Aug. 17, 2016
Some dental patients are scared of their dentist. Others don't want to fork over the cost of treatment. But all of that can be addressed and even overcome if dentists are authentic with their patients. Just ask Lisa Newburger. 
Everyone always talks about customer satisfaction. “It is so important to your practice,” they say. But, are dentists really doing enough to actually satisfy their customers? The dental profession really is challenged. Some people are truly afraid of the dental office. Why? There might have been some pain in the past. They’ve had past visits that cost a fortune.

Do you want to know the secret to customer satisfaction, and hopefully eliminating some of those fears? (Some of you may be skeptical, but hear me out.) Be authentic. (If you’re wondering what kind of nonsense this is, just read on.)

I had a growth right smack in the center of my mouth. To be honest, it was gross. I let it go for a couple of weeks since it didn’t hurt. But, I was scared. Why? Because I write for the dental industry and I was afraid it was oral cancer or something even worse. (Is there anything worse than that?) My specialist saw me the same day I called. (He had an opening. Hallelujah!!)

When I was seated, I asked the dentist about his own braces. He has been wearing them for three years. It makes him seem more youthful, and even, more human. He knows firsthand what it’s like to have a “metal mouth.”

We talked about how wonderful it will be when he can run his tongue over his teeth when the braces come off. Mine have been off for a few years, but we shared a bonding moment. I knew exactly where he was coming from because I had been there, done that. He told me his own dental situation and the challenges he was facing with some upcoming crown lengthening. It was weird, but I felt connected to my dentist. I understood him. Don’t get me wrong, he was professional and all, but I could relate to him. I knew what he was feeling and what he was facing.

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Sometimes, it’s better to be authentic and share your own personal story with patients. I’m not suggesting you cross the line and go into such graphic detail that your patients go screaming out the door. But sometimes doctors are put on a pedestal by patients, and sometimes this distance between patient and doctor makes things strained. Being human and authentic can break the tension.

As you know, it’s hard to be “the professional” sometimes when you’re grappling with your own issues. Yes, you’re human and you might even have your own personal dental nightmares to deal with. (Please don’t share those!) The question is whether you can, when appropriate, disclose information that can help your patients or develop a deeper connection with them. If nothing else, it’s something to think about.

Customer satisfaction is a tricky thing. You may be providing the best dental service, yet the patient isn’t happy. You may have to try different things to figure out what will make your customer happy.

Do you have an evaluation you send out to patients? (I’ve never been asked to complete an evaluation, and let me tell you, with all the dental teams I’ve worked with, you figure someone would be sending one out.) What do you do with the information from your evaluations? Gathering information and but not acting on it can discourage patients from filling it out in the future. But customizing what they need for their treatment and care will make for happier customers!

Let me know what you think about “being authentic” and how that’s worked for you. Email me at [email protected].

Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, aka Diana Directive, is not afraid to tackle difficult topics for dental professionals with humor and aplomb. Her entertaining workshops are available for conferences and association meetings. Writing for DIQ since 2010, her “in-your-face” style of presentation and writing will make you smile, or perhaps shock you into taking action. Check out her website at

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