I'm sure you've wondered why your patients don't always choose to follow your recommendations. If you feel anything like most dentists I know, you've probably considered what you need to do differently to get patients to say "yes" to treatment.
Maybe you've even dreamed of the "good old days" when the dentist was an authority and patients just accepted the treatment suggestions the dentist proposed. You may also have thought that things would be much easier if only someone else in the practice would take care of "selling" the treatments so that you could be allowed to carry them out afterwards. Am I right?
If the above sounds like you, this post is for you😊
However, if you have a slightly strained relationship with having to read about sales and money, related to running a dental practice. Well then I would recommend you to stop reading any further.
Professionalism first and foremost
Should there now be a single reader or two, without a dental background. I would like to point out that I have met a lot of dentists at home and abroad during the 23 years I have been involved in the dental industry. So far, I have not met any colleagues who were more interested in making money than in providing the best possible dental care.
On the other hand, I have met an incredible number of dentists who have been frustrated by the fact that so many patients do not choose to have optimal dental work done, but instead opt for some patch-up solution.
Prerequisite for success in a dental practice
As I argued in my post on prerequisites for success, I believe it is just as important for dentists to develop and practice their communication skills as their dental skills. If we are not able to communicate our well-meaning recommendations in a way that makes our patients want to invest in the treatment they need. Then we will only treat a fraction of our patients sufficiently to the highest professional standards.
I think that's a shame for the patients. Just as I think it is a pity for the dentists who are struggling with this. Because I know that the feeling of inadequacy is growing among those colleagues who, year after year, see how their patients' dental status just gets worse and worse as a result of the bad choices patients make.
Did you read the last post and missed specific examples of how the steps of the communication triangle differ from each other? Then I can delight you with the fact that they will be provided in this post.
To get the most out of this blog post, I'd recommend that those who didn't read the last post read it before moving on: Patient Communication overview
Make it easy
You will recall that there is a difference in the levels of the communication triangle we should use, depending on whether we are presenting a simple or a complex treatment. Not because we CAN'T be successful with other steps, but because the success rate drops dramatically when presenting complex treatments if we choose to apply level 1-3 of the communication triangle.
Again, I would like to point out that I have developed the communication triangle to make it easier for the individual dentist to identify the type of communication, and thus the step in the communication triangle, that he or she uses the most. This self-awareness enables us to acquire the skills that take us to the next step in the communication triangle more efficiently and smoothly.
This means that there is nothing wrong with, for example, using mainly level 1 and 2 of the communication triangle. There is no one level that is better to master than another. The highest levels are super suitable for achieving acceptance of complex treatments. But also unnecessarily demanding and perhaps "overkill" if one primarily wants to perform more basic treatments.
Level 1 to 3
99% of all dentists and dental hygienists start their career using level 1 of the communication triangle.
In this step, we use words that patients do not understand (implants, crowns, bridges, dentures, occlusal splints, etc) To support our communication, we typically show models, technical photos or draw technical drawings.
In other words, we are 100% within our own comfort zone when communicating at level 1. We speak and communicate with patients in a language that speaks 99% to the logical and rational thought process. It is a form of communication that works really well when we communicate with our colleagues. Unfortunately, it is not so suitable when we need to convince patients to invest in treatments beyond the very basics.
It's pretty easy. Photos say more than a thousand words.
We find that photos from an intraoral camera create a more emotional connection with the patient. In that the patient can now see their own tooth and experience with their own eyes the connection between what we are telling and what the patient is seeing on the screen.
Communication at level 2 is still based 90-95% on logic and thus 5-10% on emotional elements.
The good thing about level 2 is that it is so easy to master. Intraoral cameras are a no-brainer to use. They work a bit like any other instrument in the dental practice and lie in the hand, like any other instrument. So we're still within our comfort zone, which makes it easy to implement in the practice.
Level 2 works super well if we need to sell "single tooth treatment", like a crown, a filling or an implant. The challenges arise when there are multiple teeth that require treatment.The more photos of individual teeth that are shown, the more the patient loses track. Ideally, 1-2 different teeth are shown. When more teeth need treatment, the communication style should be changed to level 3.
This level works well for presenting quadrant dentistry.
In turn, it becomes more technically demanding here.
Level 3 relies on the ability to take a full series of clinical photos, feed them into our electronic record system and present them to the patient.
As a minimum:
Extraordinary :A face and profile
Intraoral: OK/UK occlusal, retracted front and side segments.
Typically at this level you will have reached a level of clinical competence where treatment and presentation of treatments, has become routine. By doing so, the practitioner has also gained the surplus to focus on the patient as a person and not "just" a set of teeth. It also means that the dentist has come to know the patients better and can therefore communicate in a way that speaks more to the emotions. We are still at a level where the style of communication stays within our comfort zone.Therefore, the form of presentation is typically based on 80% logic and 20% emotion.
The most difficult part of step 3 is that it is technically demanding to start taking clinical photos. It requires perseverance and taking a lot of photos to become good at it.
There are a lot more details associated with this level that the blog format does not lend itself to. I do what I can to fill the blog with content relevant to this level, but have to admit that it is difficult to squeeze a full day course into a format that can be read in 4-6 minutes😊
Should you want to get all the details, do hands-on exercises, get a 30-page manual, including written exercises, to-do lists, templates for presentation of treatment and prices - then you should sign up for the course: "Get to yes - patient communication 2.0". The course will be held in cooperation with Straumann Group in all Scandinavian countries in 2022.
To be able to communicate at level 4, you need to have mastered the skills at level 3.
At level 4, the form of communication shifts from addressing logic 80% of the time to addressing the emotions 80% of the time.
We'll look at how this works in the next blog post.
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Many kind regards
Jesper Hatt DDS
P: +41 78 268 00 78