Changing smiles; changing lives

Jan. 1, 2004
What do you do? Dentistry. Really? Dentistry? That's what you do? What about the people you work with? What about the patients you serve? What about the family you're a part of?

Cathy Jameson, PhD

What do you do? Dentistry. Really? Dentistry? That's what you do? What about the people you work with? What about the patients you serve? What about the family you're a part of? Dentistry is a part of life — and excellent dentistry changes far more than a smile!

Anyone who has tuned in to "Extreme Makeover" lately has probably considered the difference a new, beautiful smile can make in someone's life — confidence, personal freedom, less inhibition. These changes are far beyond a dental procedure that affects bones, teeth, and gums, or any part of one's physical health. The change here stretches into deep emotional and psychological realms.

The Jameson method of management helps doctors learn to ask two key questions during consultations:

1) What are your goals for your mouth, your teeth, and your smile?
2) What are your expectations of me (as your clinician)?

The answers to these questions help a doctor apply dental expertise to the patient's deeper dreams. The dental team that is successful in listening to the answers to these questions and then delivering results that satisfy a patient's goals is not only changing smiles, but affecting a life forever.

Even without drastically changing the appearance of a patient's smile, other elements of the interaction between your patients and your team will affect their lives to at least some degree. Relationship-building communication skills can take place the first time a patient interacts with your practice. Humans are constantly in a state of self-evaluation, and much of the scoring process is dependent upon the reactions of others. Patients evaluate themselves — if even subconsciously — while your dental team schedules appointments, carries out clinical procedures, presents treatment plans, and makes financial arrangements. Are you treating that patient or potential patient with care and concern? If you take time out to consider how much you are edifying those around you throughout the day, you'll be surprised at the concrete results you'll see. Treating people with sincere care will make a difference in the lives of everyone involved in the interaction.

Let me tell you the story of Hank, a 68-year-old nicely dressed woman. After greeting this new patient, the doctor asked her about her goals for her mouth, teeth, and smile? Then he listened carefully as she told him she recently lost her husband, who had poor dental health. She said she wanted her teeth to last through the rest of her lifetime. The doctor said he understood. Hank continued by saying, "I would really like to have a beautiful smile because I'm going to my 50th class reunion in two months and I'd love to look my best." She then indicated that she had a partial denture and was experiencing pain so severe that she was unable to chew.

The doctor also learned that Hank's high school boyfriend would be attending the reunion. He learned of her desire to be healthy and attractive throughout her life. Then he asked, "What are your expectations of me as your dentist?" Hank replied by asking the doctor to do the very best he could.

Hank bonded with that doctor beyond the point anyone would have thought possible in a single appointment. She trusted him to keep her comfortable, help her get the smile she wanted within two months, and create a level of health that she could maintain throughout her remaining lifetime. She left the dental practice that day feeling like a queen — a very articulate, capable, loved woman who was worth the time, effort, friendship, and expertise of a skilled, professional dental team.

Through effective treatment, the doctor satisfied Hank's dental needs and enriched her life and confidence forever. Hank returned for an evaluation a few months later to announce that she indeed impressed the high school boyfriend. The two were eventually married. This is just one of many examples I've seen of the results of excellent dental care and excellent people care. These results reinforce a very simple concept: Dentistry is about changing smiles, but the best dentists are in the business of changing lives!

Dr. Cathy Jameson is president and CEO of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental practice-management consulting, lecturing, seminar, and product provider. An accomplished speaker, writer, and workshop leader, Cathy earned a PhD. in organizational psychology, focusing her studies on effective stress-controlled management. Cathy's books, Great Communication = Great Production and Collect What You Produce are top sellers for PennWell Books. You may reach her toll-free at (877) 369-5558, email her at [email protected], or visit her Web site at

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