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Why Dentists Should Care More about Bedside Manners

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We've all been to the dentist, and for most of us, it's a bit scary. In fact, more people fear going to the dentist than practically any other health care professional, even as good dental health requires visits every six months. It's a good bet that the reason so many people have dental problems today is because they are too afraid to go to the dentist for those check-ups. The question, then, is what can a good dentist do to convince people that he or she isn't frightening at all?

Recently, dentists have been learning that part of a dentist job is having a good bedside manner. If you have a dentist job and want to keep your clients coming back or paying you visits more often, keep reading.

One Good Reason to Care

If you spend much time browsing the Internet and reading people’s reactions to the dental work they have experienced, you’ll find most are divided into two extreme camps. Some people have had wonderful experiences and literally can’t stop saying enough about their dentists. Other people, however, seriously seem to believe that their dentist enjoys inflicting pain on patients. Do you know what causes the difference in these extreme reactions?

The answer is the dentist’s bedside manner.

While individual comments alone won’t do much either way for your business, there are a few good reasons to be concerned. Many of the patients who were the most dissatisfied ended up changing dentists after only a handful of visits, and that means that if your bedside manner is lacking, then your list of patients may start to get a little thin, too.

Another important reason to care about your bedside manner is the recent rise of ranking sites. You can find several sites where patients rank the quality of their dental experiences, and even though these personal reviews probably represent only a small percentage of your patients, they could reach a much larger audience online, and that, in turn, could hurt your ability to attract new clients. Again, if you read through the reviews, the biggest complaint is typically ''poor bedside manner.''

If you are interested in building a bigger dental practice, paying attention to your bedside manner is critical. One of the fastest growing dental practices in Indianapolis credits their phenomenal success and their 3,000+ patient list to the dentist’s excellent bedside manner. Because he makes the patients feel at ease, they don’t mind coming in for routine visits, and fewer are scared off by major dental work, such as root canals.

How’s Your Bedside Manner?

While the main part of a dentist job is caring for a patient’s teeth, the most beloved dentists recognize that the mouth is only one part of a total person. You simply can’t have a good bedside manner without that realization.

That brings us to the issue of what, exactly, is meant by bedside manner. Basically, your bedside manner refers to how you deal with your patients, and not necessarily to how well you do your dentist job. That means you could be the most skilled dentist on the planet, but if you lack basic skills at dealing with patients as people, you’re probably going to lose a lot of business.

One of the biggest elements of having a good bedside manner is empathy. When a patient comes in who is scared and nervous (as many are), you need to show them that you understand how they feel and why they feel that way. If they are in pain because of a procedure you have to complete for their oral health, be conscious of the fact that people really dislike pain and that people also have different pain thresholds. What might not hurt most patients could be very difficult for some patients to experience.

Another important element is flexibility. You’re going to find that some patients come in to your office and don’t want to talk. They just want to get in the chair, have the procedure done, and get out as quickly as possible. This is their way of dealing with their nervousness.

Other patients want to go slowly. They like being comforted by explanations about what is going to happen and enjoy being relaxed through small talk or humor.

Part of your job as a dentist is to determine how each of your patients will want to be handled and accommodating them all as best you can. This can be a challenge, but it’s definitely one of the most important keys to having a good bedside manner.

Finally, you need to be patient. Having a dentist job, you are bound to meet some patients who are a breath of fresh air. These are the people who make your job worth doing and whose names you are thrilled to see on the appointment list. Other patients, on the other hand, will require you to be very patient, to take a lot of time, to answer a lot of questions, and to basically hold their hand throughout the ordeal. Being able to do this is important if you want to have a good bedside manner with your patients.

The question, of course, is how good are is your bedside manner at this time? Chances are you’ll have a difficult time getting an honest answer from a patient right after a procedure is completed. However, you can have one of your staff members create a short survey that is sent via mail or email to patients 48 to 72 hours after their visits. Although many will not complete the survey, you are likely to get a decent response rate, and that should give you some idea of where you need to make improvements.


If you’re serious about improving your bedside manner in order to be more effective at your dentist job, remember the characteristics discussed above. Pay more attention to your interactions with patients and to how they respond to you.

Remember to take every chance you get to practice the skills associated with a good bedside manner. They don’t only work in the office but can be very handy at home as well.
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Popular tags:

 procedures  bedside manner  Internet  complaints  explanations  patients

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