Allowing Intuition to Lead in the Dental Chair

‘Not all those who wander are lost!’

Maybe this should read: Not all those who wonder are lost!

How many times has a patient presented with, not only a dental concern, but other concerns like; why more xrays, how fast does the anesthesia wear off, are the filling materials safe, or do I really need a fluoride treatment? What’s even more challenging are the questions that often come up after the first one is addressed! It’s enough to make you wonder, why all of your patients can’t be more like Mr and Mrs ABC; compliant, cooperative, relaxed and so easy to work on?

So I ask you, are you lost or really wanting to understand the people you get to work with? My guess is you’re looking to empathize; and the reason why this article came together!

We are highly intuitive creatures raised to doubt; even in the dental chair. In fact, being at the dentist not only inspires the intuition, it triggers the instincts and unless you’re well versed with navigating through the mine fields, the experience is often times, exhausting for all involved.

Intuition is normal. Voicing it, on the other hand, is not so common; so, when a patient feels compelled to verbalize a thought and concern, the best approach is an empathetic response rather than a canned reaction. (and by ‘canned reaction’ I mean reassuring them with a standard come back for objections). Your dental patients are in your practice for a reason; YOU, and it’s you who stands to make a difference in their life, not just their dental experience.

You see, intuitively we meet; instinctively we question. When we disentangle our minds from all interpretations, we are in the position to serve and as dental professionals, like I said, we have an opportunity to honor our patients where they’ve historically felt dis-empowered and victimized.

1) When a patient questions a procedure or practice i.e. xrays or fluoride, hold this thought, their doubt is about them, not you… knowing this is half the battle AND gives you a solid foundation on which to respond. When you react (and trust me, they can feel your agitation no matter how calm the exterior, because we are intuitive creatures), you’ll experience more of the same challenges until you alter your thought process.

2) Make your responses more personalized. We live in a society where house calls are obsolete, distractions are the norm, and customized anything means putting your name on a coffee mug, t-shirt or license plate… in other words, we’re invisible. To compensate for this, people are asserting themselves more frequently, especially when their safety is ‘being threatened’, which shows up as anxiety, depression, ‘millions of questions’ and so on. Take the time to understand the person in front of you! What is his or her history and speak to that! Let them know they are in control and that you want to accommodate, within reason.

3) Give them solutions not validations. The other day I was listening to a Holistic Dentist speak about a patient’s objection to ‘more xrays’. Her comeback was this: ‘Well, keep in mind our digital technology has significantly decreased the amount of exposure to radiation and to give you a comparison, consider this: you get as much radiation on a cross country flight as you do in a full mouth series.’ Where is the comfort in this remark? There isn’t any. The patient simply hears there’s even more out there to worry about? In fact, I used to work with a doctor that repeatedly told his patients that to walk outside was to expose themselves to as much radiation as they were getting with ‘this’ PAX. Give your patients solutions. What is their concern? Radiation! Teach them how to restore their body no matter how minimal the exposure. If they’re worried, honor them, and restore their faith in their healthcare provider. Oh, by the way, suggest spirulina and / or chlorella in either tablet or powder form. These superfoods are known for reducing the radiation load in the body.

4) Acknowledge everything he or she brings up, one topic at a time. Reassure them that the technology is valid, as are their concerns. Know this, your patients know their body and they have a right to want to be as healthy as possible and the only way to do this is to inquire. You, as a professional, have the right to choose your technology because you want to provide the best care possible and have the right to educate. These two desires can coexist. The challenge is to NOT let the ego interfere with the relationship. Our bodies are wise; our experiences train us to listen… the key is to now listen to one another and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that neither one is the enemy. Allow intuition to lead the way. We are a team with the same goal, optimal oral systemic health.