An Encouraging Word
No one reading this needs more bad news about this ongoing economic recession. Dentists, though, might have an unusual perspective on it. I don’t mean just because your businesses have been affected - whose hasn’t? I mean, you see this from an angle most people can’t appreciate. Sadly, economic recession isn’t just economic. This downturn threatens personal well-being, both mentally and physically. The burden of worry is as brutal as the one of debt or the one of looking for work. There’s no isolating the human body from the body politic; the external conditions inevitably affect the internal ones.
The headlines are all right there, written in on the teeth and gums: neglect, bad diet, postponed treatment, stopgap measures and finally, a problem that might have been treated routinely months ago before it turned serious. All signs of the times; people who worry about cash flow put off spending on everything but the necessities, and the worse things get, the more harshly they define “necessity.” Cleanings and checkups that used to be necessities are now “maybes.” Indulgences like alcohol or tobacco become crutches. Some nights it’s too much work to floss or use the fluoride rinse. Some nights even brushing is out for someone who just can’t muster the energy.
You see the Dad who’s out of work and suffering with dental pain so he can pay the mortgage, and the Mom who lets a cavity turn into a root canal case so her kid can go to summer camp. They don’t need to explain it to you. You can read that story the moment your patients open their mouths.
Getting Back to Positive Routines
You might not think of yourself as a counselor, but if you have the opportunity to offer your patients some personal encouragement in your appointments this week, you might be surprised by how well they take it, and moreover, at the practical effect it can have in their lives. It doesn’t have to be too personal, and you don’t need to overstep professional boundaries. Just a few gentle, specific reminders to patients about taking care of themselves can help reorient them to the small things they can do to help themselves.
Sticking to the evening routine of flossing and brushing is crucial. Any positive routine can help beat the blues, and this one, certainly, is a sound investment of ten minutes. Do your patients understand the connection between their gums and their hearts? Do they know that daily flossing is a proven way to promote cardiac and systemic health, not to mention avoiding gingivitis and cavities? Take a moment to remind them, and supply them with a fresh roll of floss. Remind them not only what to do, but why to do it - it’s about staying healthy, staying strong and enduring for themselves and for their families. Those few minutes spent maintaining their mouth is a chance for them to look in the mirror and reinforce their resolve.
They might find it surprising, and particularly gratifying, to hear encouragement like this coming from a dentist. It’s a way for you to express personal concern and caring, and to keep the relationships you have with your patients through the downturn. Your own financial outlays have probably been affected by this economy, so you, like them, have to get the best return on your time and money. Maybe you’re rethinking marketing media or ads. Maybe you cut back on personal spending his year. Talking is inexpensive, but it’s not cheap - which means that a few minutes at each appointment spent strengthening your relationships with patients is time well spent with a reliable return. The patient who knows you care today is going to be there tomorrow when things are better for everyone.
On behalf of McKenzie Management, David Clow consults with dental professionals on practice culture, case acceptance, and patient expectations.
David Clow is a writer/consultant for Fortune 100 companies. His book, A Few Words from the Chair, is the first book written by a patient for dental professionals and students and is available here.
Listen to David’s FREE podcast. Click Here
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