The Oscar goes to ...

Aug. 1, 1999
You may fantasize about being a famous football player, musician, or scientist. You might dream you`re Troy Aikman throwing a perfect game-winning touchdown pass with only seconds remaining on the clock, Celine Dion singing the title track from "Titanic," or Albert Einstein delivering a paper.

Imagine that you are nominated for an Academy Award ...

The category is "Exhibits the Trust Factor Consistently."

You win!

Karen Cortell Reisman, MS

You may fantasize about being a famous football player, musician, or scientist. You might dream you`re Troy Aikman throwing a perfect game-winning touchdown pass with only seconds remaining on the clock, Celine Dion singing the title track from "Titanic," or Albert Einstein delivering a paper.

Fantasies such as these always fill my head during the third week in March, when I turn into an Oscar- awards fanatic. Picking my choices on the ballot is a serious, thought-filled effort, and I watch the show with reverence, imagining myself giving an acceptance speech.

I observe film characters` behaviors as I watch movies because they provide me with great studies of human nature. When we talk about the word trust, five classic films show us the "must-have" attributes for establishing trust with others. That`s important, because people do business with people they know, like, and trust. The bottom line in the acceptance of dental treatment and building successful, ongoing relationships with your patients is the "trust factor."

If you want to create the trust factor in your practice, here are the movies you can learn from:

Good Will Hunting

Matt Damon, a janitor at MIT, hangs around the old neighborhood, but he can download contents of whole libraries into his photographic memory. Good Will Hunting is the story of how this working-class young man`s life edges from self-destruction to personal and professional success, due to his gift of genius. Lesson No. 1: Show your knowledge.

The good news here is that you already are knowledgeable. You bring your unique experiences, your years of education and work, and your many hours of continuing education to the table. But, I ask you, are you conveying this knowledge to your patients? Do they grasp how much you know in the short time they are in your offices?

Are you telling them, face-to-face, or in your newsletter, or in your brochure about 1) your CE accomplishments, 2) your accreditations, 3) your team-growth workshops, etc.? Are you describing 1) your uniqueness (why the patient should buy from you and not the dental shop up the street), 2) what the patient will gain from being treated by a quality dentist like yourself, and 3) your practice mission statement?

Louis Armstrong once said, "There`s some folks that, if they don`t know, you can`t tell `em." We may not be geniuses, like Matt Damon`s character, but don`t keep your cutting-edge knowledge a secret. People trust people who know what they are doing.

Life Is Beautiful

Roberto Benigni, an adult class clown, constructs an elaborate fiction to comfort and protect his young son in an Italian concentration camp during the Holocaust. Benigni shows how he uses his gifts of optimism and humor as a weapon against evil. This movie is about rescuing whatever is good and provides hope when dreams are wrecked. Lesson No. 2: Have a positive attitude and a sense of humor.

Although you typically will not face this magnitude of an adversity, you are confronted with many daily hassles and obstacles. Your computer crashes, your hygienist is sick, and you can`t get a temporary. Then a patient calls in saying, "You`re not on my dental insurance list of providers," and you run late because a crown for another patient doesn`t fit right.

You can face these challenges in two ways: 1) get upset or 2) find the humor or positive angle in the situation. In fact, sometimes the only aspect you can change in an unpleasant situation is your mental approach - i.e., how you deal with it.

By finding the silver lining in a dark cloud and then communicating your positive attitude with your verbal and nonverbal behavior, you will enhance the emotional trust connection with your patient and team.

Life Is Beautiful falls into two parts. One is pure comedy. The other smiles through tears. Your dental practices are not meant to be "A Night at the Comedy Corner," but, at times, you do need to smile through the tears and aggravations.

Star Wars

The Evil Empire has all but triumphed in the galaxy. But rebel forces assault Death Star with the help of Princess Leia; R2-D2`s computer, the robot, C-3PO; idealistic Luke Skywalker; hotshot pilot Hans Solo; and wise Obi-Wan Kenobi. Good overcomes evil. Lesson No. 3: May the force be with you!

Simply stated, you must have passion for what you do. You`ve heard the old adage, "They don`t care how much you know until they know how much you care." You need to have both knowledge and a passion for your work. Your patients can sense your level of enthusiasm, and they translate that into your level of interest in their well-being.

Does this mean you need to become an outgoing cheerleader if you`re more of an introvert personality? No. But it does mean that you must be cognizant of showing your passion for dentistry within your own personality style.


According to movie critic Roger Ebert, "James Bond is a hero, but not a bore. In one adventure after another, he saves the world, defeats bizarre villains, gets to play with neat gadgets, and seduces or is seduced by sexy women. When it comes to movie spies, Agent 007 is full-service, one-stop shopping." Ebert goes on to say that, "Of all the Bonds, Goldfinger is the best and can stand as a surrogate for the others." Sean Connery, with his sleek, self-assurance, has become the most classic Bond. Lesson No. 4: Convey confidence and self-assurance.

Connery has some sticky moments in Goldfinger, just as you do in your office. Auric Goldfinger has captured Bond and has him under his complete control. Before Goldfinger can laser Bond from stem to sternum, Bond dissuades him with some quick thinking. Once again, the enemy is foiled by Bond?s suave confidence.

While you don?t need to reincarnate yourself as James Bond, here are some ways to convey confidence and self-assurance in your practice.

(1) Maintain effective eye contact.

(2) Be present in the moment.

(3) Greet your patients before they are lying flat in the chair.

(4) When introducing yourself, offer a firm handshake.

(5) Keep an open facial expression. Smile!

(6) Listen effectively.

(7) Walk with good posture.

(8) Use your patient?s name a couple of times.

(9) Dress appropriately.

(10) Have fun!


Humphrey Bogart plays Rick Blaine, the hard-drinking American running a nightclub in Casablanca at a time when Morocco was a crossroad for spies, traitors, Nazis, and the French Resistance. Bogart?s character obtains a letter of passage that will allow two people to leave Casablanca for Portugal and freedom. Rick wants to use the letter to escape with his true love from the past, Ilsa Lund (played by Ingrid Bergman), who suddenly appears at his club. Yet, he contrives a situation in which Ilsa and her current love interest, Victor Lasio (Paul Henreid), a legendary French Resistance hero, escape together. Lesson No. 5: Maintain integrity.

Bogart does the right thing in a tough situation. He gives away his girl for the great cause. He?s a hero. He?s sincere, honest, and sound ... the definition that Webster?s Dictionary offers for integrity.

The trick is that integrity begets personal and professional success, and it?s a vital component of the trust factor. Your patients and team can sense it if you are Odoing the right thing,O whether it is assessing a treatment diagnosis or handling a computer crisis. Communicate with integrity and your patients will trust you.

So, follow the advice illustrated in these five films and you will emotionally connect with others. Imagine that you are nominated for an Academy Award. The category is OExhibits the Trust Factor Consis-tently.O You win! You look out in the auditorium and see all of your patients. You accept your Oscar and say, OThanks for trusting me.O

Movie Review

Now, let`s play film critic and review our movie lessons that convey the trust factor.

Lesson No. 1 - Show your knowledge. Make sure patients realize how much you know.

Lesson No. 2 - Have a positive attitude and a sense of humor. Find the silver lining in the dark clouds. Sometimes, the only thing you can change about a bad situation is your reaction to it.

Lesson No. 3 - May the force be with you! Your patients and team want you to have passion and enthusiasm for your work.

Lesson No. 4 - Convey confidence and self-assurance. Even on bad days, pretend you`re James Bond defying the odds.

Lesson No. 5 - Maintain integrity. You have the ultimate responsibility for setting the tone in your practice. Be the model for "doing the right things."

At the conclusion of Casablanca, Bogart stands on the tarmac watching Ingrid Bergman fly away without him. He mutters, "It doesn`t take much to see that the problems of three little people don`t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." In dentistry, the little things do mean a lot and what you do does amount to more than a hill of beans.

Source: Roger Ebert, "Ebert`s Great Movies," Chicago Sun-Times (online)