How Well Can You Read Your Patients?

It is rare that dental-related issues slip by an experienced dentist and team.  Tens of thousands of hours of experience and training ensure that even the faintest of concerns on an x-ray receive the appropriate attention.  While x-rays, intra-oral photos, and chart notes are expertly scrutinized, there is not always enough effort dedicated to reading the patient—a crucial step for maximizing treatment acceptance.  Patients do not automatically schedule just from your diagnosis, especially if they have unresolved concerns regarding treatment. 

Therefore, it is important to pay attention to your patients’ facial expressions, posture, and breathing.  When you discuss the need for a root canal, for example, does your patient tense up?  When you discuss multiple phases of treatment, do your patient’s facial expressions indicate he is confused or does he look distracted? 

If you miss important non-verbal communication, you miss the opportunity to address the source of your patient’s concerns.  Maybe the patient has unfounded fears about discomfort that need reassurance, maybe you need to simplify your phraseology when explaining treatment, or maybe you need to ask the patient about his priorities for treatment.

When you pay attention to body language, you can tailor how you communicate, leading to a stronger connection to your patients.  Just as experience greatly reduces the times you miss the start of decay or infection on an x-rays, making an effort to read body language will, over time, minimize situations where patients leave the operatory fearful, confused, or uncertain.

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