Recently our young associate approached me with this question. “How come you are doing more crowns than I am? We are seeing the same general patient mix. In fact I see more urgent care than you do. You and I have the same philosophy about when a crown is clinically indicated. I feel that I am recommending treatment that is in the patient’s best interest. Yet, people are refusing or deferring ideal care and choosing what I consider a compromise in treatment.”
I asked him to make a list of ten clients who had chosen “less than ideal” treatment in his mind and promised to review it with him. Later in the day we looked over the records. In every case presented the clinical indications were such that a crown would be the recommended treatment. Why were people saying yes to me and no to him? My comments to him were as follows:
Gray hair makes a difference – You have a great educational background and excellent clinical skills. However, you only have a limited relationship with the patients you are seeing. Even if I am seeing a person for the first time I still have the advantage of a long history in the community and the likelihood that someone referred the person to our office who knows and trusts me. Trust transfers with time and relationships. You are more likely to be perceived as an “up and comer” who just wants to do nice dentistry and make money. With patients who have been coming here I have two other advantages. In most cases I have probably been telling them for years that a crown is indicated, or if something happens with the tooth a crown is indicated. They come in all ready with the mental attitude that a crown is the treatment of choice. In other cases where we have done a crown and it has worked out well they understand that the time and expense of a crown now is worth not having to deal with future problems.
Philosophy matters – In all cases the patient owns the problem. Treatment is optional. It makes no difference that we know what is technically best for the patient. Our role is to provide appropriate diagnosis, educate the patient on the options and outcomes available, establish prices involved and allow the patient to choose the course of action that is right for them at this moment in time. I can relate hundreds of cases over the years where we provided treatment that was palliative, to get by for an unspecified time. Over the years those people came back when the time was right for them and asked for us to do the crown that they knew they needed. If we had forced them into doing “what we knew they needed” they would have left the practice.
Look and act professional – Long ago we practiced in a shirt and tie because that is how “doctors” were supposed to look. Today we follow the mandates of OSHA and practice in modified scrubs for our clinical team and coordinated attire for our business staff. We are a team and we want to look and act like a team. But professionalism is more than clothes. How we act, appear, dress and treat others has a major impact on how our clients believe we think and act. Active listening with our clients and staff is imperative at all times. Being accountable is critical in gaining the respect of others and even of yourself. Finally, how you appear to others in your dress and bodily appearance impacts how others think of you and how they perceive you feel about yourself. You will gain the respect of others when you demonstrate that you respect yourself. No words will be necessary.