07.10.09 Issue #383 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague


Belle DuCharme CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Your Body Language Speaks Louder Than Spoken Words

“I can sell ice to an Eskimo” Dr. Candidly* proudly stated as we discussed the results of his treatment presentations. Observing one presentation, I noted that as the patient asked several questions, Dr. Candidly nervously spun his pen and tapped his foot with each additional inquiry as to why the dentistry was necessary.  “Let’s get you an appointment and I will show you some samples of the work that I have recommended for your situation.”

Appearing to want to “wrap things up” and get the patient out the door, Dr. Candidly assumed that he had sold the patient on the dental work and his questions could be answered at a later date. The patient did appoint for the treatment, but later cancelled and rescheduled the appointment for a future date. Dr. Candidly reported that patients usually accepted and scheduled appointments but he wanted them to want the high end dentistry and not just the basic services. 

Demonstrating the need for dentistry with visuals such as radiographs, intra oral photos, models and educational videos are all important. What is said to the patient to communicate the need for treatment and the benefits is also critical.  Often overlooked but equally important is the doctor’s body language when discussing treatment with the patient.

From the moment you walk into the treatment room, your body is busy telling people all about you. If you have not had the opportunity to meet the patient prior to entering the treatment room, the first minute the patient sees you is spent assessing your physical appearance and the patient often does not fully hear the words you are saying until after this assessment is complete. If you slouch or have poor posture you will be sending a message of insecurity or lack of confidence.  A person that stands tall and moves in a purposeful way commands instant respect as he/she enters the room. Good posture includes the way you hold your head. Study the way people in your life carry their heads and see what you think about the differences. Keeping your head level indicates an assured and capable nature. It may also give your voice fuller tones as it opens the airway. With a level head you are able to look people straight in the eye. A bowed head with eyes toward the floor makes you look unsure and passive, or possibly not telling the truth. Tilting your head shows curiosity or that you are listening to the person with interest. A tilt of the head with a quizzical look can show bewilderment or helplessness to get a point across. 

Dentists often turn their backs on patients during treatment presentations in the operatory because the design of the chair and the equipment makes it difficult to sit face to face. Because of this, it is recommended to move the patient to a consultation room or private office to sit with the presentation laid out at eye level between the doctor and the patient. Often doctors dismiss this idea as being time consuming and unnecessary, however recent feedback from dentists who have started presenting treatment plans in rooms or spaces other than the treatment room find patients more willing to ask questions and proceed with treatment.

Most people are unaware of their nervous habits because they are desensitized to the behaviors and are unaware of the affect they have on observers. If you are aware of any nervous fidgeting or annoying habit that you may have, now is the time to work on eliminating it if you want to communicate effectively. One of the worst nervous habits is looking at your watch as the patient tells you a story, as it sends the message that “I don’t have time for this.”

The result is a communication disconnect with the patient, and possibly a lost follow-up appointment for dental treatment.  Constantly clearing your throat, adjusting your tie, pulling at your hair, ears or chin all send messages that can make the observer uncomfortable. A relative of mine pulls at her eye lashes when she is in a conversation that makes her feel vulnerable. Because I know her habit I am accustomed to it, but others who do not know her find it disturbing.

To improve your body language and polish your treatment presentation, the Treatment Acceptance Course through McKenzie Management provides the tools and the platform to explore ways to learn how you influence your patients to buy dental services not only with your voice but also with your body. Call today to find out more about the course and how it can help you.

*name has been changed

Interested in having Belle speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

If you would like more information on Treatment Acceptance Training to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com.

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