So many dentists tell me they struggle with how to communicate with patients. After all, bedside manner is something we are continually learning over the course of our careers.
Well, in today’s blog post, I want to share a podcast episode where I talk all about this topic (and more!).
I will be working with Tricia Brouk of The Big Talk this year, as I take my message about the importance of saving teeth onto bigger stages and get it in front of more eyes and ears. A few years ago, I was on Tricia’s podcast, and we talked about how I connect with my audience.
And one of my audiences is my patients.
One of yours is, too.
The more you understand how to communicate with them, the more trust they’ll build in you.
Listen to the 14-minute episode here, and you can read below for highlights:
Who is my audience?
I have three primary audiences: my patients at my practice, the dental residents I mentor, and general dentists (like you!) here on this blog.
For all of them, the number one way I learn about them is by LISTENING to them. It is so important not to make assumptions about what they are experiencing and what they do (and don’t) know.
Why is it important for me to know who I’m talking to?
It’s important because the amount of dental knowledge between a patient and a dentist is SO different.
It is my job to break down the technical words and make it really easy for my audience to understand.
When I talk to my patients, I like to use a lot of analogies. One of my favorites is something I talk about in my book, Tooth Wisdom: Each root is like a Twinkie. I go inside and pull out the dirty cream, clean it out, then put in fresh, clean cream. Sometimes I may let them know what could happen if I don’t treat something, so they can make an informed decision.
For dental residents, I recognize they have a strong foundation, but they don’t have a lot of clinical knowledge yet. So I remember what it was like for me to be a new dentist, and I build on the foundation they already have.
For general dentists, they have clinical expertise, but they aren’t endodontic specialists. So I make sure to honor their knowledge while also filling the gap with the knowledge I have as a specialist.
I change my lingo a few times a day, depending on who I’m talking to. But no matter my audience, I love it when I see the lightbulb go off in their head.
What do I want from each audience?
For all of my audiences, I want to earn their trust. When they trust me, we can do so much together!
For my patients, I want them to accept my treatment because they understand it. (My favorite word is WHY, after all!) If they get the process that’s happening in their body, then they can be an advocate for their own medical care.
For dentists, I want them to trust that my teachings will help them achieve better outcomes with their patients.
What happens when I don’t know my audience?
This takes me back to the first time I was teaching residents. I assumed they knew all this stuff that they didn’t know yet, because they just didn’t have the experience. I had forgotten what it was like to be at that stage in my career.
When I saw them look at me with a “Huh?” look on their faces, I had to take a step back, gauge where I was losing them, and start from there.
This can happen with your patients, too. Be on the lookout for when you are losing them. They might be too nervous to ask you a question, or they may not even be able to articulate their question. So use body language and facial expressions to give you a clue.
What are my chosen action words for how to communicate with patients and my other audiences?
Tricia gave me a list of action words, and wanted me to select a few that resonated with me. I chose:
Listen, Educate, Understand, Motivate, and Accept.
I picked these because this is the process I go through with my audience, whether it’s my patients in the clinic, or fellow dentists at a conference. When you want to know how to communicate with your patients, this is the key.
This list has evolved over the last decade I have been in practice, but it really works.