A Good Bedside Manner: How a Little Empathy Goes a Long Way at the Dentist’s

Choosing your family dentist can be a difficult process. You need to consider a dentist who’s not only skilled in his or her profession, but a dentist who takes your physical, mental, and emotional needs into account.

In fact, according to a survey by Vanguard Communications, patient satisfaction may depend more on bedside manner than medical skill.

Jo Webber of the NHS Confederation explains, “Simple things like spending time with patients, talking to them, listening to their concerns and addressing issues . . . can make a huge difference. People who have a better experience in these terms are happier, healthier, and do better.” (See www.nhsconfed.org (http://www.nhsconfed.org/))

However, many people have different expectations regarding appropriate bedside manner; what works well for one patient may not be the right choice for you or your children. In some cases, having a good bedside manner may be the determining factor in whether a dentist is right for you.

What Is A “Good Bedside Manner,” Anyway?

A good bedside manner encompasses multiple elements that aren’t always easily defined. Essentially, good bedside manner is determined by the doctor-patient relationship, or in this case, the dentist-patient relationship.

Establishing a healthy relationship is the first step to a proper diagnosis. The more a patient trusts his or her dentist, the more information can be conveyed, making it easier for the dentist to determine potential problems. Additionally, if a dentist has a good bedside manner, the patient may be more comfortable with the procedure, making it easier for the patient to relax and even enjoy the experience.

When choosing a dentist, sometimes it can be difficult to determine bedside manner when you schedule an appointment. However, there are a few things to look for when deciding if a dentist is right for you. Consider asking yourself the following 5 questions the next time you go to the dentist’s office.

1. Does your dentist take the time to get to know you?

Many dentists get in a rush to fill their scheduled appointments. Some clients are more difficult to work with than others, and some procedures are particularly stressful. Consequently, it’s easy for a dentist to sit down and immediately get down to business in order to keep up with the demand.

However, a dentist with good bedside manner will take the time to get to know you. He or she will address you by name, and even ask you about your family or social life or perhaps discuss upcoming events. In some cases, you might not be able to answer these questions because your teeth are being cleaned, but it’s the thought that counts.

2. Does your dentist show you respect?

Smart phones play a large role in today’s society, and an up-to-date dentist may even use a smart phone to look at your dental history. However, your appointment is your time. A courteous dentist will take the time to switch a phone to silent (or vibrate) and will focus on you and your needs instead of his or her latest texts.

Additionally, your time is valuable. While it’s understandable that a large rush of clients may

leave your dentist scrambling to catch up, it’s important that your dentist doesn’t leave you in the waiting room for hours after your scheduled time. If he or she is running late, your dentist should acknowledge the inconvenience and apologize to you.

3. Does your dentist listen to your concerns?

While X-rays and modern diagnostic tools make it easier for a dentist to spot problems, these tools are not perfect. Whether you have a tooth sensitivity or are experiencing sharp pains in your jaw, it’s important that your dentist listens your concerns and addresses them individually.

The better you can communicate these feelings to your dentist, the easier it is to provide a treatment or a solution. In some cases, simply adjusting the temperature of the rinse water may have a significant impact on your dental visit.

4. Is your dentist easy to understand?

Dentists spend years learning the proper medical terms and techniques necessary to quality care. So, when they spot a problem, it may be their first instinct to explain a situation in scientific medical terms.

For example, a dentist may diagnose you with an acute apical abscess, but a dentist with good bedside manner will explain to you that this condition is an inflammatory reaction that may be treated with antibiotics.

For some people, having their situation explained in easy-to-understand terms can help reduce anxiety regarding the condition and the subsequent treatment. Similarly, children may find it helpful if their dentist explains what each tool is for and what the dentist will do during a checkup.

5. Are you comfortable with your dentist?

As you can see, there are multiple components that contribute to good bedside manner. Some dentists excel at providing their patients with understanding, compassionate care, while other dentists try to get the job done as quickly as possible.

While it’s important to find a skilled dentist who gives you quality results, it’s equally important that you feel comfortable with your dentist. If you’re not comfortable, ask yourself what kind of attention you hope your dentist will give you, and then ask your friends and relatives for a good recommendation.

Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be a scary, uncomfortable situation. With the right bedside manner, your dentist can turn that frown upside down.

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