While trying to think of a topic for this blog, I was torn between using either Friday the 13th or Valentine’s Day for inspiration. My plans for both nights include wine, dinner at home, and sweatpants. Maybe there will be some scary movie- or romantic comedy-watching as well. If you thought the life of a dentist was exciting, wait until you become a dentist and a parent—then the fun never ends.
So let’s talk about love. It’s nice to have it in your personal life, but it’s also nice to have it in your work life. As health care professionals, it is rewarding to feel loved and appreciated by your patients. It motivates us to try harder and become even better at what we do.
So, how many of you generally feel the love as a dentist in your practice from your patients? I would have to go with maybe 15 to 25 percent of my patients seem friendly and generally happy to be in the office and are, for the most part, excited to see me. These are obviously my favorite patients to treat. (A subgroup of this category is “parents of young children.” For them, coming in and getting their teeth drilled is like a vacation. They are usually asleep in the chair before I even get out my syringe, and they are so patient and understanding. They are the best!)
We have a good 50 percent who are what I would like to call neutral. Not too excited, but not sporting a frown before you even walk into the exam room—overall, a typical New Yorker personality. I enjoy these folks as well. This is my personality, so we get along and understand each other.
Then we get to the last 15 to 25 percent. These are the ones who really make you work for their affection. It’s the person who blurts out, “I really hate the dentist!” as soon as you walk into the room. The patients with that permanent cagey look on their face when you say you would like to take a look at their teeth and see what is going on. They may refuse to take X-rays. They may even rush out of the office after their cleaning, because “they don’t have time for the exam.” Sometimes I wish they would just give me a chance. I don’t think I’m so bad!
How do you get these patients to fall in love with you? (Not for real—that is just inappropriate; please, do not hit on your patients.) I am a big fan of the “kill them with kindness” approach. As they say, you catch more flies with honey. Your efforts may seem to go unnoticed the first few times. I would say a positive sign is if the patient returns in six months for a recall visit. They may not seem too enthusiastic, but hey, they returned. They may not like the dentist, but at least you are the one they dislike the least. Sometimes you may be pleasantly surprised to discover they really do belong in that first category of your favorites; they just needed some time to get comfortable with you.
Finally, there are, unfortunately, a few patients who deserve no love at all. Every dental practice has them, and their degrees of unpleasantness can vary. I consider myself a tolerant and patient person when it comes to patient care, but sometimes even I cannot live with certain things. My biggest pet peeve is when patients are rude to the staff in the office. They constantly yell at the receptionist over the phone when they do not get their way, or they are rude to the assistants when they try to take care of them. These are the ones with whom I try to conserve my mental energy. I don’t attempt to win them over. Some things are just not worth it.
Have a great weekend!
Lilya Horowitz, DDS