Does education inspire?

Dental staffs will tell you a major frustration is patient's noncompliance. "They don't floss or care for their dental health the way I have taught them."

Bill Blatchford, DDS

Dental staffs will tell you a major frustration is patient’s noncompliance. “They don’t floss or care for their dental health the way I have taught them.” Even our dental guests proclaim, “I will make an appointment to have my teeth cleaned if you promise not to give me the flossing lecture.” The humorist, Dave Berry, felt it was “fun worthy” to create a whole column on dental staffs and their “flossing lecture.”

Interestingly, only 10 percent of Americans who are eligible for two hygiene visits a year even participate. Your hygiene department is seeing the best of the best. Our hygiene guests need to be fawned over and complimented for keeping regular visits. They are the “top gums” of dental patients. If the top 10 percent do not comply with our pleas to floss and care for their teeth, who will? Could the problem be the method of our repeated message?

Fights have erupted over emotional philosophical differences concerning various approaches to education and delivery. People who were never interested in education find when they become parents, their child’s education - who teaches it and how it is taught - becomes primary in their life. Whole schools of thought are formed over discoveries and findings of how students learn, what motivates students, and why some people move forward when others appear to not hear the message. What is the philosophy of education in your office?

Under the guise of education, we take the stance of the teacher/student relationship. In our lecture method, we appear to be saying, “I know this and you don’t. My job is to make you want it.” This is the authority versus the little kid, even though your patient may be 50 years older.

What is our mandate? Dentistry is a business to serve people. What does excellent service look like? How does the flossing lecture mesh with serving guests well? Some dental offices have shifted to a spa atmosphere of service. Where does the flossing lecture fit here?

Recognize there are differences in educators. We remember teachers who really made a shining difference in our lives. We also have had teachers who failed to touch our souls and we wondered why they continued in education. William Arthur Ward wrote of teachers:

“The mediocre teacher tells;
The good teacher explains;
The superior teacher demonstrates;
The great teacher inspires.�

If education is a purpose in your office, how effective are we in our teaching? In your present educational method, do you inspire? What different methods could you use to inspire?

What motivates the 10 percent of the population who are in regular recare? What are we doing - or not doing - that is keeping the other 90 percent from actively participating with us? Who knows?

Try this. First, shift your paradigm from “My patients don’t comply with my teachings” to “I have the best patients who do care about their dental health.” Secondly, shift from the lecture mode to the Socratic method of asking questions. Then, ask questions! Help them to discover the motivating reason for their repeated return to have their teeth cleaned and cared for. Have them tell you what is important to them. Instead of lecturing, find out what their values are and how strongly they feel about them

You know many of your recare patients well. When you ask your guests questions, listen to their answers. Listening builds self-esteem on the part of the guest because you are showing what they are saying is important to you. Listen without looking like you will interrupt any moment. Avoid multi-tasking when listening. Act like this is the most important thing going on right now. Limit your talking to 20 percent of the conversation. Your job is to ask questions and absorb what patients are saying. Provide clarification if asked.

What will they tell you and how will this make a difference? You never know. Since you do not have an agenda for your guests’ smiles, whatever they tell you is the truth for them. Make your patients right and work with what you have. They will give you more interesting insights about themselves than you will learn when you give them the flossing lecture.

Give it a try. Start out on a different foot and let your guests talk, not you. What they will tell you will make a greater difference then any lecture you can give them.

Dr. Bill Blatchford’s Custom Coaching Program is now availableanytime, anywhere. Utilizing 18 years of practice-management experience with over 1,100 offices, Dr. Blatchford’s custom program involves minimal travel and maximum personal time with the coach, interaction with other doctors, and tons of support. Leadership, systems, case presentation skills, communication, and profitability are emphasized. He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit his Web site at

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