Believe it or not, the most important aspect of my job is listening. Unfortunately, most of us are not trained in school to do that. Either we are born with that ability or we are taught by others (either through study or by observation). Obviously we must see a purpose in listening and that is the subject of this article.
Dental school helps us learn the techniques and gain the skills necessary for fixing teeth. (Of course, I am using the word “fix” in a very general way, because, some dentists are trained to remove teeth/oral surgery, others only perform root canals/endodontics and some specialize in orthodontics/braces.) We are taught by our instructors to identify problems and then develop solutions, regardless if the patient is involved in the diagnostic process or not. After all, we are the experts when it comes to our patients’ dental health. Wrong!!!
I’ve always believed a well informed patient becomes the expert when they are given an opportunity to talk about their wants and needs. That is how the examination visit becomes more than just looking for problems, such as cavities; it allows the doctor and the patient time to share information about anything that has everything to do with their dental health. There is nothing shared or discussed that should be considered unimportant. Sometimes the most insignificant comment leads to awareness of what IS really important to the patient, and, of course, their dental future. We like to think that when the doctor takes the time to listen to the patient all things are possible.
It is way too easy for the dentist to make decisions based on their likes or concerns. But, in actuality, when the dentist listens to what is said, every patient discovers for themselves, what is best for them, not what is best for the dentist. For example, someone may present with crooked teeth and think they are too old to have that problem corrected. If the dentist doesn’t allow the patient time to share their concerns, how would the patient ever know there are several different ways of correcting misaligned teeth? Or, when someone presents with missing and/or broken-down teeth, they may think the only solution is a denture. That, of course, is farthest from the truth. And, that is why we feel strongly about listening and sharing.
When the doctor and patient develop a relationship based on sharing information, there is an opportunity to get to know one another, and, most importantly, to discover what is important to the patient--their wants and needs. This “co-discovery” process becomes the most important tool in diagnosing as well as in developing the master treatment plan. This, of course, makes it possible to achieve an extraordinary level of care. Just think, not only do we discover the existing condition of the mouth, we learn what is important to the patient—are they concerned about function, comfort, esthetics, longevity or all of the above. This makes the examination visit a “co-discovery” event; the patient is now involved and can freely take ownership of their “dental destiny.”
And, that is how Listening puts you in the Drivers Seat.
To learn more about this topic, or any others from Trok & Krider Dentistry, please visit their Healthy Living Page.
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