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Attitude is Everything

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Attitude is everything in dentistry, just as it is in life. Personal relationships can make or break you. In a field where one of the most effective forms of advertisement is word of mouth, keeping everyone happy is the main objective. There are several qualities one must demonstrate in order to develop strong relationships and an even stronger business. 





Growing up, my mom always told me, “Kill them with kindness.” She couldn’t be more right. Kindness is one of the most important qualities one can possess. This especially applies to dentistry. Patients come to you seeking treatment, often afraid and possibly in pain. They are timid—letting a stranger perform a procedure they know nothing about in an intimate place. Comfort your patients. Treat them like you would your own family.  Show them love, kindness, and a gentle touch. Always smile regardless of how you are feeling. Educate them on what’s going on so they feel more comfortable in your hands.  



In order to have a successful business, you must also extend this kindness to colleagues and employees. In dentistry, everyone is connected. Be kind to your colleagues, whether they are classmates or future dentists. This will allow you to develop relationships within the community for referrals and possible mentors. Additionally, your employees should be shown kindness as you depend on them to keep your business running smoothly. 




Flexibility is key in dentistry. Be prepared to take on anything. Things don’t always go as planned. Be adaptable, remain positive, and avoid getting frustrated. This also extends to your nonverbal communication. Body language can often convey more strongly than words. Your patient will pick up on everything.   



Being flexible can also apply to the technical side of dentistry. As you progress, don’t get stuck in your ways. Keep an open mind and try new technologies or ways of doing things. In a constantly evolving field, it is imperative that we keep up on education and remain aware of new methods. 




There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. No one wants a dentist, colleague or boss who thinks their you-know-what doesn’t stink. 



Be a team player. If you aren’t already, get used to it, because that’s your future, even if you are a sole practitioner. Learning to work with others is critical to perform procedures effectively and efficiently. This will translate to shorter appointments, happier patients and staff, and a more profitable business. 



Remember that mistakes happen, especially now as students. Instead of interpreting these mistakes as a blow to your ego, see them as a learning experience. Embrace mistakes: You’re human just like everyone else. It’s what you do after the mistake that truly matters. Try to maintain composure and think of a game plan to compensate. Once you have fixed the situation, learn from it.   




Respect everyone. From your patients, to your receptionist, to the other dentist down the street. Everyone deserves respect.   



Patient respect is always the number one priority. Remember the ADA Code of Ethics principle: “Autonomy.” As professionals, it is our duty to listen to patient’s desires and treat them accordingly within the bounds of accepted treatment. We are to respect our patient’s right to choose their treatment by involving them in treatment decisions.   



In a field with many ways of performing the same treatment, respect that other dentists may not do it exactly like you. Some may choose to implement different materials and methods. It’s also important that this extends chairside. Avoid bad mouthing other dentists to patients. If a patient were to hear you comment on a poor margin or a bad filling as you review the radiographs of another doctor, they may immediately think, “Malpractice.” Remember that what you’re seeing on these radiographs is just a snapshot. You don’t know the movie. While it is important to recognize issues with current dental findings, however, respect other dentists by not talking negatively about their work. Instead, refer the patient back to that dentist to evaluate.   



Dentistry is all about who you know and the relationships you create. We’re a tight-knit community where everyone is tied together somehow. Personal accounts may make or break you down the road with jobs, residencies, and even patients. Dentistry is a healthcare but it’s also a business. If you want to keep patients, you need to have a good attitude. Remember to treat everyone with kindness, maintain flexibility, work humbly, and be respectful. At the end of the day, work with others the way you would like them to work with you.