I’m not that scary, though some people are scared of gingers (yes, that’s an actual, scientific fear).
I don’t judge people by their teeth that much (I kid, I kid).
I recently ran a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study in my practice … or maybe just a Facebook poll. My purpose: to find out why many of my friends, neighbors, and acquaintances don’t call me their dentist.
You see, I’m involved in many social circles—gym, church, sports leagues, community organizations—and I meet lots of people along the way. Except for a handful of exceptions, most of these people don’t come to see me as their dentist. When I was a new blood, fresh out of dental school, I took it personally. Now, I just find it interesting. I know what kind of service we provide and how many people we’ve helped to overcome fears of pain, esthetics, or cost of dental treatment. I have faith in our system, and I’m certain it comes off that way when I meet people (I hope!) and our conversation inevitably leads into dentistry. It usually goes something like this:
Don, what is it that you do?
I’m a dentist. I LOVE it!
EWW! I hate dentists. All you do is cause pain. I had this one dentist who took a tooth out without getting me numb! He told me to just shut up and suck it up! His assistant sat on me to hold me down. I’ve never been able to overcome that.
You guys are so expensive! Every time I go, my dentist tells me I have cavities or tries to sell me one of those nightguards because I supposedly grind at night.
So back to my study. I set out to find the reason(s) why many of these people, some very close to me socially, don’t call our dental practice “home.” The choices I offered on said study (Facebook poll) were:
- scared of me
- scared of gingers
- scared of dentists in general
- worried about what I’ll find in there
- worried about the expense of treatment
- don’t want a friend up in your personal space
- you think I will judge you as a person based on it
- just think six-month check-ups are a waste of time/money
Honestly, the most common answer I got was “location,” which makes sense, as actual studies have shown the average person is willing to drive only 10 miles to/from work or home to see his or her dentist. We have people who drive three hours to see us every six months, but I understand the argument. We’ve set up offices across a good portion of our city, but there’s still much territory that we haven’t reached. Options: open more offices or buy a mobile dental van? There’s one for sale on eBay—sweet!
The second most common answer was that they’d been seeing their dentist for years and years and were too scared or too lazy to change. The dental landscape is a-changin’ people—there are more docs retiring than graduating from dental school. This answer choice will eventually give way to an inevitable decision on who they’ll see after their dentist retires. Guess I’ll just wait!
Phew! My ego was all worried that people legitimately didn’t like me or were scared of someone they know being in their personal space. Good to know! I guess I’ll continue to venture into these circles of people and suffer through the conversations about pain-causing dentists who try to sell nightguards all the time. And I’ll continue to offer what I do—affordable, painless dentistry, in a comfortable setting. Won’t you join me?!
Donald Murray III, DMD