PROACTIVE PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
 

In today's age of modern dental practice management, fundamental interpersonal relationship skills are necessary to help patients and parents achieve the level of health they desire. But it seems that the knowledge of asking questions correctly, listening carefully to the reply, building the person's knowledge through education, presenting treatment options that make sense, and making good financial arrangements may not be enough to gain acceptance to treatment. A key ingredient that may be missing in helping dental offices achieve accelerated practice growth today is PASSION; a passion for dentistry that links all of these skills together into one seamless engagement that helps patients and their parents become as healthy as they desire. A passion that comes from being excited about all the options available with modern dentistry, including esthetics!

What often is an obstacle in the process of gaining acceptance to treatment is the perception by some who work in the practice that they are going above the accepted norm, or that they are pushing unnecessary treatment. Comments from team members that come to mind are, "I don't like to sell", or "I don't want to sound like a used car salesman."

Perhaps dentists have thought of these questions over time:
   •  What is the reason why staff feels uncomfortable with "selling" treatment that is prescribed by the dentist?
   •  Why does staff feel "pushy" when they are asked to discuss treatment options and reinforce dental care that the practitioner feels is important for optimal dental health?
   •  Do staff members have preconceived notions of what would be the proper care?

In order to overcome the "sales" barrier, empower staff with the knowledge to educate parents about all the available options for their children's care. That may include helping the parent become aware of and excited about treatment that yields a more pleasing esthetic result, even though it may be more expensive. Some team members may have a mental block created from their own personal circumstances that may lead them away from discussing esthetic treatment because of cost. Avoid this by encouraging team members to allow parents to make decisions for themselves based on the knowledge provided during their visit.

The patient process requires determined steps to help patients and parents arrive at the logical and sensible conclusion of accepted treatment. These steps include asking questions that help determine a need or want, educating them to help the person become more familiar with their options, and using communication skills to lead them to the decision that makes sense for them. Injecting passion into this process requires a true belief that the options are exciting and will create an end result that helps address the particular desires of the parent and child.

Getting caught up in the skills of day-to-day operations, such as cleaning and polishing teeth, restoring teeth that are decayed, promoting good oral hygiene at home, can lead our minds away from the real reason why people will pursue treatment recommendations. That is, people who accept and pursue treatment are excited about the outcome because the doctor and staff created a passion about the end result.

In this day and age, people are very conscious of the way they look. We are bombarded with images of beautiful airbrushed models looking perfect. Adults as well as children strive to look their best to fit in to the social norm. Parents may not feel esthetics are as important for the child based on cost versus teeth that will eventually be replaced by permanent teeth or that are hidden from view when the child is smiling.

This summer, my nine-year-old niece was very upset because a boy in her class brought attention to her teeth appearing yellow. After many days of the nine-year-old crying and pouting, her mother responded by buying her whitening strips from the local drugstore. My niece proceeded to covet and show off her new beauty treatment to cousins and neighbors. This started a chain reaction, and now all six other children present, ages five through twelve, feel the need to use the whitening strips to have model perfect teeth. This is the thought pattern of many children, as well as their parents, today. Children have always felt the need to fit in, not to be deviant from the norm, and parents are more willing to give in to the child's perceived needs.

Esthetics in dentistry for children, now more than ever, is necessary to help a child's self esteem, especially when one thinks of actors in movies today. In order to portray a villain or a character lacking intelligence, the actor's teeth are crooked, missing, or chipped. When portraying someone with low self-esteem, the teeth are yellow, gray, or dingy because of poor hygiene. Children internalize this and feel that they are lacking in potential too, regardless of their true appearance.

Dental team members need to be cognizant of how these factors affect children and communicate this to parents. Specifically, they must explain all of the provided options, teach the benefits of treatment, and be aware of how dental treatments will benefit a child not only physically, but psychologically as well.

A practitioner should continually build on staff's knowledge base as to why esthetics is necessary and beneficial to children. As staff becomes more familiar with treatment options, they in turn can more easily explain to patients and parents why choosing more than just the most basic and perhaps less expensive option may not be in the best interest for the child. In essence, the staff member will arrive to the level of getting excited about not only the physical but the psychological impact on the child, as well.

The staff needs to understand that they are not selling treatment to a parent/patient, but providing parent/patient with a solid knowledge base so that the parent/patient can be well informed when making the final decision regarding dental care.

The end result will then most certainly be that the parents and patient have been involved in a process in which they feel educated, comfortable with, and excited about the treatment outcome. They will be convinced that the payment they are making is valuable and worthwhile. They will share the passion for dentistry!