Many have heard the term “likeability factor” before. Actually TimSanders wrote a book on it in 2006. I would like to put a little twist on that phrase and call it the “The Dental Likeability Factor!”
Dentistry is a very personal profession. It feels like you need a PhD in interpersonal relations sometimes. Every patient is a different personality and has different likes/dislikes and needs. You will find that some patients are very easy to read. They will communicate their likes/dislikes and needs to you with very little prompting. On the other hand, you will encounter patients that you cannot pry anything out of them. They are mysterious and wish to remain that way. They are a closed book that cannot be opened.
A big reason that patients will come to you to seek care with you is because you are likable! If a patient likes you they are more likely to take your treatment recommendations seriously and will pursue treatment that you prescribe. If you don’t have the dental likeability factor you will not enjoy the same response.
Currently, there is a large amount of distrust in the general population. Not only in dentistry, but in everything. People are very skeptical about dentists and some think that we are out to get them. They feel that the reason we prescribe treatment is based on the need for us to purchase a new Mercedes and not on the premise that we want them to be healthy. Trust is fading and if you can connect with the patient and build rapport so that they like you, then they will trust you.
Dentists come in all shapes and sizes. Some dentists love to chit chat with their patients and others want to just get em’ in and get em’ out. I have found that both systems work. It totally depends on the patient. You will find that patients will gravitate to the dentist that is the way they “like.” The patients will come back to you and refer to you if they like you. I have found that through the years I have morphed into a type of actor. Certain patients you have to be stern with, others very caring and sensitive to. If you get good at switching between those different modes you can connect with a lot more people.
When I first graduated from dental school I loved to see patients coming back every 6 months to see me. I enjoyed talking to them and getting to know them on a more personal level. They would bring in their kids and refer people and such. This was great. This allowed me to get to know them and for them to get to know me. I noticed that the patients that liked me stayed in the practice. Others that didn’t, moved on. This is ok!
You really must have tough skin in this profession. Realize that you cannot please everyone all of the time. However, the more people like you, the more people that will be staying in your practice!
Dr. Troy Stevens is a practicing dentist in Mountain Home, Idaho. Together with Dr. Marcus Neff and Dr. Ryder Waldron, Dr. Stevens is co-author of the book “So You Want To Be a Dentist?”. The book can be purchased on amazon.com, the ibook store and other outlets.