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Accelerate Your Practice with Three Key People Skills

Dr. Mark E. Hyman, a full-time general dentist practicing in Greensboro, North Carolina, observes that clinical skills and people skills go hand-in-hand in the dental practice. “If you don’t have clinical expertise, you will surely fail, but if you lack interpersonal skills it can be difficult to truly succeed,” Dr. Hyman says.

Dr. Hyman has identified over 60 “practice pearls” that can make a difference in the dental practice: he shared three of them with ADA New Dentist News. “At the end of the day, it’s all about people,” Dr. Hyman says, offering tactics that apply to every patient, an approach to new patients, and a philosophy towards the dental team.

Preparation Benefits Every Patient

“Let’s say a patient schedules an appointment because he has a chipped tooth,” Dr. Hyman says, “and when he arrives, the receptionist asks, ‘What brings you here today?’ Then the assistant who preps the patient in the operatory asks, ‘What brings you here today?’ then I ask in my role as the dentist, ‘So tell me what brings you here today?’ How many times are we going to make this patient explain himself before we demonstrate that we are listening?” Dr. Hyman uses “linkage communication” which shows the patient that the team is communicating and knows why he or she is there for a visit that day.

Dr. Hyman recommends that each member of the team be prepared with the information on every patient. “That’s part of the morning huddle, and it’s baked in to how we guide patients through the experience of visiting my practice.”

Listen to the New Patient

“Dentists don’t do themselves any favors by spending the first moments with a new patient asking about insurance coverage,” Dr. Hyman observes. Instead Dr. Hyman thanks the patient for choosing his practice, and asks about the patient’s goals for her smile, her teeth and her health. And, unless the patient is new to the community, he asks why she is no longer seeing her previous dentist.

“The answer might be, ‘He was always pushing me to get a crown.’ So I would reply, ‘do you think you need a crown?’ And I would follow with, ‘as I examine your mouth, if I find evidence of dental disease, do I have your permission to tell you?’ And that takes it out of the realm where I’m the expert here to diagnose and deliver bad news. My approach builds trust because it puts us on the same team working towards the same goals. Once you have truly heard the patient’s goals, the more quickly you can build trust.

Respect the Dental Team

“Everyone on the team has to be working at the top of their intelligence,” observes Dr. Hyman, “and for that to happen, I have to respect everyone’s intelligence.” One approach is to include everyone in continuing education. “When we hosted a seminar for the office about implant dentistry, I included the front desk team,” observes Dr. Hyman. “Then when a patient asks about implants, the receptionist can reply with understanding, and also keep me informed so I can further the conversation.”

Dr. Hyman also believes that the high-tech dental practice offers many opportunities to engage the dental team. “Let’s face it, sucking spit is not the most fun thing in the world,” laughs Dr. Hyman, “so whenever it’s appropriate, I make sure that team members have the training and know-how to use the instruments in my operatory. I have intraoral cameras, I have team members who can design CAD/CAM restorations off of my preps, that’s all part of keeping everyone as interested in dentistry as I am!”


Dr. Mark Hyman will present the continuing education course Take this Job and Love it! on Friday, July 18 as part of the ADA 28th New Dentist Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. Register for the conference and select your CE at this link

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