Dentist Attempts to Stifle Critical Comments

Here’s an interesting article about a dentist who had patients sign agreements not to put disparaging comments on social network websites. http://onforb.es/wboJQW It’s a clever idea that will likely cause more negative publicity than had the dentist simply tried to resolve the patient’s problem. Now it’s a freedom of speech issue. This is a hard thing to swallow for any of us, but we have to be settled with the idea that some people will not like us. Certainly we should do everything we can to resolve conflicts and negative publicity, but there is a point where we are best off to let it go and trust that people can sense when someone is being unfairly criticized. I am not advocating passivity when it comes to negative publicity but instead of trying to squelch negative comments, I think it is always best to promote honest feedback and then respond to it, good or bad. This shows people that you, the dentist, are engaged and take the feelings and ideas of others seriously....

The Therapeutic Importance of Hope

Hope propels therapy forward. Despair stops it cold. Dentists rob patients of hope when they want to project an inflated level of certainty. When dentists “know” ahead of time how everything is going to turn out, whether good or bad, the candle of hope is snuffed out. Yes, even assuring patients that everything will be OK can be unkind. Should things not turn out as we had promised, our poor patients are then suddenly whiplashed into disappointments they were promised by our certainty would not occur. Here is a simple example. Never promise, or let anyone on your team promise, that something you will do won’t hurt. It might. And how do you know what “hurt” means to the other person? Instead, we can always promise to do our best and to be sensitive to how they are responding to what we are doing. Here’s an interesting thought. Our patients’ hopes are tied to our humility. In other words, to give them hope, we must admit we do not know everything and not everything we do works the way we want it to. This is not a slight on competence. It is simply acknowledging a fact of life. By being uncertain as to outcomes, we too express hope and become fellow travelers with our patients. Furthermore, unless we give patients the gift of uncertainty upfront, we cannot really celebrate with them in the end when everything works out just fine. May all our patients beat the odds, and may we not throw cold water on anyone’s desire to go for the Hail Mary pass. And should things not work...

How to Succeed in Periodontal Therapy Part 4

Where Are We? It should be obvious by now that this presentation is not a “best practices” consensus on the subject of periodontal therapy. Rather it is my personal, but experienced advice on what I consider the best way for dentists to treat and manage chronic periodontitis. I also believe that reading and implementing some or all of my recommendations here will help your practice grow. The purpose of these blog posts, which will eventually be consolidated into a manual and used in training seminars on line or in person, is to explain in a comprehensive way how to establish and then operate a periodontal therapy program; one that provides the best care beginning in the general dental office that is working in concert with a periodontist colleague. In other words it is assumed that there will be patients who fall outside of the more predictable and routine, so for this reason, it is always smart to have a periodontist on your Periodontal Therapy Program team. This brings confidence to patients in your program and makes referrals, when indicated, easier to achieve. Remember, it is important that your referral recommendations are followed by your patients in order to make sure they return to you later. Patients who leave any office to find “somebody” to help them with “something” easily lose confidence in the practice that seems to have sent them away. On the other hand, when patients understand the story and how and when referrals are made, and to whom they are made, as simply a matter of fact in the early presentation, this builds greater trust in the...

How to Succeed in Periodontal Therapy Part 3

The Power of Story There are successful dental practices alongside unsuccessful dental practices. Each one of them provides similar services and has similar patients, yet some succeed and others do not. So what’s the difference? It’s really very simple. It’s explained in a story. Would you like to hear it? It’s every dentist’s story and it goes like this. A few years back every dentist was a dental student. And before this they were taking pre-dental classes, which were predominantly math and science courses. In fact most pre-dental students majored then, and still do even today, in biology or chemistry, not because they like these subjects, but because they want to be dentists and believe their chances are better if they obtain a degree in one of these fields. The science classes in colleges and universities that are prerequisites for dentistry, medicine and veterinary sciences are popular, not because most of the students taking them love these subjects.  It is because they are required courses in order to become doctors. So the class sizes are large and often are taught by graduate students. This is because professors prefer working with those who happen to enjoy their particular field. They do not enjoy dealing with people who are only there for the grade. So why isn’t there more of a stink about this? It is because the unwritten objective of these courses is not to teach toward comprehension anyway. These courses are for the most part filters designed to weed out professional school applicants.  So if lectures are complicated, possibly given by someone whose native language isn’t English, and the...
How To Succeed in Periodontal Therapy Part 2

How To Succeed in Periodontal Therapy Part 2

Ben’s Story in Periodontics Last time I said I would tell you my story, but before I do, perhaps it would be helpful to define in general terms, what success in periodontal therapy ought to look like. When Periodontal Therapy is running smoothly in the dental office: Most periodontal disease is being detected early. Most patients diagnosed with periodontal disease are accepting care. Most patients assume personal responsibility for effective daily plaque control and the management of reasonable appointment intervals. Patients and the office team work well together and morale in the office is high. Therapy follows predictable and positive paths toward good dental health which is reflected in easy to understand documentation. Referrals grow through word of mouth in part due to the success of the periodontal therapy program in the office. When therapy is not working, patients don’t blame and dentists don’t hide. Consultations and collaboration with others help move patients toward more sophisticated therapeutic options. In other words, no one is falling into supervised neglect. Last time I ended with: “Fundamentally, successful periodontal therapy is rooted in persuasion. Yes, technical skills are important, but long-term there is more required than this. I believe much of it is about engaging people in a story that gives them the road-map they can follow to better dental health. I call this the dentist’s story. To help explain this, let me demonstrate it by telling you a little bit about my story in dentistry, especially as it relates to periodontal therapy. This, I think, will also help explain why general dentists have less interest in periodontal disease than do dental...

Changing the Dental Office Culture

As I get good questions like the one below, I try to answer them in a way that is helpful to many by turning them into blog posts. This has the added benefit of enabling others to join in the conversation because I know for sure there are a lot of smart people reading this who may have better answers than I do. In fact I got permission from the one who wrote the question and he is excited as well to see what many who read this might think.  So here was his question to me: “Dear Ben, After careful discussions with my great hygiene team they feel that I am asking too much in 1 hour although I feel this to be very reasonable. I have listened to them and I know there is still great resistance. Did you have a way to change the instrument-at-all-times culture to an examination-and-explain culture or did you initially give your team more time?” For those who may not know, he is referring to the SPT series (Supportive Periodontal Therapy) I wrote how supportive therapy is not a cleaning appointment, per se. Rather, it is an evaluation appointment with a cleaning component to institute treatment as needed, but at as low an impact as possible. Although I get the essence of the situation, I also know that the abbreviated question may not be the deeper question or concern. So let me make a few observations and I hope they help. Ultimately I am confident that this dentist and his team will figure this all out in a way that best works...