What can dentists learn from Disney’s ‘Frozen’?
Andrew Wilson takes advice from Disney’s Frozen to help deal with unappreciative patients.
We all have unappreciative patients that get us down.
It’s the way of the world; difficult people are a part of life, never mind dentistry.
Unfortunately, the thought of our most awkward clients can haunt us, affecting the way we treat the rest of our patients.
As a young dentist, you must learn to move on and put difficult patients out of your mind.
That’s why I’ve written this article to demonstrate how a certain Disney Princess can help you along the path to professional success.
‘It’s not hurting at the moment’
‘£22 for a check up? Who’s Porsche am I paying for?’
‘I’m not paying that, I’ll wait until it starts hurting.’
‘This is our NHS. I shouldn’t have to pay a greedy dentist £260 for a crown.’
If you’ve spent any time in general practice, you will have heard phrases similar to this from a minority of patients.
You know who they are – the patients who come for their check up, decline treatment and tell you how much of a rip off NHS fees are just for good measure.
They tell you that they would prefer not to have the treatment they need because ‘it’s not hurting at the moment’.
You can try explaining that when it starts hurting, it might be too late.
You can remind them that the tooth might become painful over the weekend or even Christmas when there will be no one available to see them.
You can talk until you’re blue in the face.
No matter what you say, these particular patients will decline your advice, accuse you of ripping them off.
The cost of treatments
It’s no fun being told that your time isn’t worth the cost or that the patient would prefer to have the cheapest option.
Rejection in any form is a tough pill to swallow.
As a result, the memory of that single ungrateful patient and the fear of further rejection changes the way that many young dentists plan treatment for everyone else.
We become obsessed with the cost of treatment.
This becomes falsely fixed in our minds as the most important factor to patients.
We start to push our patients towards the cheapest treatments because they represent the lowest risk of rejection.
By doing this, we unintentionally commit ourselves to low value work, making our lives harder and more stressful.
Young dentists often do this without even realising.
Have you ever told a colleague ‘my patients just want the cheapest treatment’ or ‘my patients never go for the crown, they only want a patch up filling’?
If this is you, you have let your fears of rejection take over and you are reflecting your concerns about treatment costs onto patients.
You need to see the phrases above for the excuses they are.
Excuses, excuses, excuses
If you wish to build a successful career in general practice, you must stop these excuses.
You must not let unappreciative patients affect you.
Do not let the views of these difficult patients influence the way that you plan treatment for the other people under your care.
This is where my Disney Princess comes in – you have to forget the patients that get you down and reject your advice.
Once they have left your surgery, put them out of your mind and move on.
In the words of Elsa from the musical Frozen: ‘Let it go, let it go; the [patients that decline treatment that I recommend for the benefit of their oral health] don’t bother me anyway.’
You must let go of negative experiences with ungrateful patients and treat the rest of your loyal clients in their best interests.
The good news is this – 99% of your patients really appreciate what you do for them.
They respect your knowledge and expertise and they want you to guide them to the treatment that is best for them.
Of course, the cost of treatment must be considered but it is not the main priority for your patients.
Their priority is the health of their teeth and mouth.
Ultimately, it comes down to understanding your value as a person and as a professional.
You must not let anyone else diminish your personal worth.
Consider how much time, effort and money you have committed to your career so far.
You are a highly-skilled professional with huge potential and you’re getting better every day – do not forget that.
Let go of the opinions of ungrateful patients, stop letting costs influence the treatments you offer.
Understand your value, appreciate your own skill and allow yourself to provide the fantastic care to your patients that you are capable of.