Most dentists will have entered this profession because of a genuine desire to help people achieve and maintain optimal dental health, which will remain their primary aim for enjoying a long and satisfying career. There can be little better feeling than seeing a patient who may have had considerable dental problems leave the practice having successfully completed treatment, enjoying great dental health.
Despite the obvious benefits of regular dental care, many patients still regard the dental profession with suspicion and mistrust, failing to understand why a certain procedure is necessary for their oral health.
With the rise of online information platforms such as WebMD, many people now come into a dental office with their own self-diagnosis and treatment plans in mind. This can make it more difficult to build a patient’s trust and it may be even more problematic for patients with a bad experience in the past. Often a patient’s very first contact with your dental practice will be through your website, so it is essential to include the right type of content to encourage them to book an appointment. Where permitted, make sure to include clear, concise information about your skills and treatments offered. On top of that, explain how your dental care will benefit the patient’s oral health.
1. Taking Time to Discover Your Patient’s Real Concerns and Desires
During a patient’s initial visit for treatment, it can be difficult to put aside the time to really talk to them, instead concentrating on their immediate concerns. If practical, a short pre-clinical interview will allow you to ask more in-depth questions, discovering any underlying concerns the patient may have about their dental health or the appearance of their teeth, and how this may affect them in everyday life. This approach takes a little longer but determining their true aims and desires allows you to focus on providing treatment tailored to meet their specific needs. As you spend more time getting to know the patient, they will begin to feel more confident to ask questions and will trust your judgment in looking after their oral care.
2. Developing Your Skills in Explaining High-Quality Treatment Plans
A patient may feel anxious, stressed or nervous in the dental chair. It can be difficult for them to understand any proposed treatments and to fully grasp why those are necessary.
Many people lack any detailed knowledge about their dental health - especially how it can affect their general health. An intraoral camera can be a valuable educational tool. Explaining the images provided by intraoral cameras can be an excellent way to gain trust, allowing the patient to see the problem, to clearly understand why treatment is required and how it will help improve their oral health. By providing proper education, you can build a patient’s motivation to accept a proposed treatment and to continue practicing good oral care at home.
3. Building Trust During and After Treatment
Even the most relaxed patient may feel slightly nervous when receiving treatment. Taking a moment to talk to them during their appointment and explaining what is happening will help to reassure them. Regularly check if they are okay and offer short breaks during longer treatments. Afterwards, ensure the patient is properly informed about any aftercare and make sure they can contact your practice if they need additional information or care.
Communication is key
Other than the three steps outlined here, using your communication skills through your words, tone of voice, and body language are also ways to gain and maintain your patients trust. Building a rapport within minutes and showing understanding towards your patient and how they see a situation before offering your perspective are important factors that will contribute to building trust. Instead of only getting your advice patients seek for an in-depth conversation about their oral care and wish to feel involved in the process.
Ultimately, when you take the time to learn about the patients’ long-term health care plans, they are more likely to trust your intentions. Trust in further consequence leads to acceptance and which makes you an active part of your patients’ decisions. Use your knowledge to influence them, but optimally use it to help them make their own decisions. What stands in the way of case acceptance in a practice today is not often the cost of a treatment, but the lack of perceived patient trust. When you overcome that factor, you will develop better relationships with your patients.