SOMETIMES, PATIENTS GO TO THE DENTIST fully expecting to get their teeth cleaned and to be told everything looks great. On days like that, finding out they have cavities or gum disease is especially hard. The way the dentist or the hygienist breaks the bad news can make a huge difference, and it can be a crucial aspect of patient loyalty. So how can you, the dentist or the hygienist, soften the blow when you must educate your patients that they’re going to need more dentistry done than they expected?

Know Your Audience: Understanding another person’s listening and communication style can make this sometimes-uncomfortable situation just a conversation about remaining healthy. First and foremost, the team member having the conversation with the patient must feel confident in the diagnosis and the treatment proposed. Everyone has a certain communication style, identifying those styles is the next step in creating ease and understanding. Some people need just the facts while others need detailed explanations.  Listen to the patient, hear keywords or trigger points and you will understand their style. It is then up to you, the presenter, to speak to them in a way they will retain the information.

The Problem, The Treatment, and The Solution: Remember to educate patients, what is the diagnosis, why, and how do we get them healthy again. When we approach a situation as “What is best for my patient”, the rest becomes easy. Make sure the whole team is on the same page. Everyone in the office should understand why we do the dentistry we do. Everyone needs to understand the diagnosis and remember we are educators. We are constantly educating our patients about why we provide and how we provide the health care we do. Verbal skills and amazing hand-offs between team members can be essential to this process.

Help Your Patients Say Yes: Once we understand the patient’s communication style and present the diagnosis along with the treatment, the next step is to help them say yes. Having options available and presenting all the options is key. Sit down with your patients, in a private location to discuss their needs and your ability to help them. Listen to their concerns and then present with confidence in your ability to assist them in returning to health.

Display the Comfort of Professionalism and Confidence: Your overall attitude with patients can play just as important a role in how well they react to bad news. When patients feel comfortable and educated they trust us. Being confident and professional can be the most reassuring part of your approach. Listening to our patients, presenting their treatment, and offering options in a positive manner will ensure success.

Remember, what we all long for is excellent communication and empathy. Especially when being presented with unfortunate news. Make sure you and the entire team are on the same page by knowing your patient’s communication style, educating the patient regarding their diagnosis and treatment needed, and offering multiple payment options. Keep patients for a lifetime with your professionalism and confidence.

Just as you love to see your patients smile, we love to see you succeed!

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