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3 Keys to Building Trust with Patients

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” [Warren Buffett]

A question I often pose to a new dentist I am working with is: What is the most valuable thing you have to offer your patients?

Some dentists say excellent clinical skills, or a high level of customer service. Others might say they provide a pleasant modern environment, or a friendly team.

While these are all important components, I think they are completely useless if you are missing the main ingredient in any successful practice.

Patient Trust.

I have noticed that the most successful dentists – those that have a schedule full of large cases, and referrals constantly coming to them – have created a huge amount of trust between them and their patients.

Notice I said ‘created’. 

It’s the dentist who creates the trust that the patient feels.

This isn’t something they do overnight, or even within the first few appointments. But gradually, the majority of their patients come to trust them, and know that the dentist has their best interests at heart.

But wait, what exactly is trust? 

The google definition of trust is ‘a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something’. On a deep level, we all know whether we trust someone or we don’t.

In our Primespeak Seminar, we spend a great deal of time focusing on creating and growing the trust the patient feels with their dentist because, without it, there can be no way to move the patient towards any sort of treatment.

I’d like to suggest here three ideas that will help you to greatly increase the trust a patient feels initially, and that will help them to feel more of it as they stay with your practice.

1) Have a genuine interest in them as a person, not just as a set of teeth

Many experienced dentists tend to see every person who walks into their office as a set of teeth with a person attached. They can’t wait for the person to be quiet and open wide so they can solve their clinical issues.

The only problem with this approach, is it creates a sense of disconnection between the dentist and patient. The person in the chair knows you don’t care about them, and so they close down.

Getting to know a person a little bit, just for 5 minutes or so before talking about anything dental related goes a great way to making them feel trust for you.

2) Be aware of their physical sense of comfort

A dentist office isn’t a place most people spend time every day. So it’s important to be very aware of how your physical environment can make them feel.

Think about how they feel sitting in the chair lying back while you are trying to talk to them, or how they feel discussing finances out in the reception area while other patients are eavesdropping. There are likely to be several small things you do that make your patients feel uncomfortable, yet you are oblivious to them.

The best way to gauge what your patients are feeling is to ask a good friend to go through the typical patient process in your office and give you feedback about what makes them feel controlled or uncomfortable. If they mention anything, change it, and aim to make the person feel a sense of comfort in each situation.

3) Be open with your agenda, so they know what to expect

Many dentists tell me they feel like they are in a battle of wills with their patients, wanting them to do the best type of treatment that will make them healthy. Meanwhile, it seems their patients want the cheapest, quickest solutions.

Because of this difference, a lot of dentists start to hide their true agenda with a patient, and don’t tell them anything about what they are intending to do during their initial appointment. Instead they wait till the very end of the appointment and then shock the patient with a huge diagnosis.

Instead of doing that, try being open with your agenda.

Try saying something like:


‘As we go through today’s exam, I will explain any specific condition I see, and then any treatment options. And as long as you understand the consequences of each option, I will support whatever you choose to do.’

In Primespeak, this is called a position statement. It allows you be totally open about your agenda, and it actually passes ownership back to the patient. And not surprisingly, by being open and honest, it makes the person trust you more.

These three ideas are just the start of creating and growing the trust your patients feel. There are hundreds of things you can do, small and large to scale the trust your patients feel about you.

Although trust is very hard to measure in concrete terms, the more you invest into creating trust with your patients, the more the rewards will flow back to you, financially and otherwise.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication.It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” [Steven Covey]

>> Click here to read more about  The Power of Good Patient Communication

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