The dictionary definition of trust is “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.”
True dental health requires trust – trust by the patient that the dentist has his/her best interests at heart, and trust by the dentist that the patient will follow his recommendations – it goes both ways. Consequently, I believe that it is important to do all that is possible to gain trust with my patients, and the best way I have discovered to do so is to allot enough time in the beginning to discover who that “new patient” is, their attitude towards dentistry, a careful history of their past treatment, and their desires and expectations for their dental future.
I often see new patients with neglected mouths, poor dental treatment and full dentures as a result of several factors:
- Fear based on past painful dental and emotional experiences that kept a person away from the dentist.
- A lack of dental education through having sought pain relief only in emergency type clinics.
- Having poor treatment by an incompetent dentist.
- Not undergoing proper dental care due to reliance on a dental insurance fee schedule.
- A basic belief that they will lose their teeth as “it runs in the family.”
- Never having worked with a dentist who would take the time to educate his patient about the positives and negatives of their oral health status along with long-term solutions.
- A person who “knows it all” and wants to be in charge of their treatment.
- Letting dental fees get in the way of preventing an even more costly future of discomfort, compromised appearance, chewing and other dental problems.
At the core of most of the above factors is the element of trust. It was either there initially and subsequently broken, or circumstances were not originally present to give it a chance to develop.
I have seen emergency patients whose dental pain outweighed their fear that were mistrustful and cynical because they had never been given the chance to understand how to turn it around. They put off preventive, diagnostic and treatment care based on any of the above reasons.
A dentist who cares will be compassionate and have the stage set to listen to his patients and understand the nature of their fears, possible misgivings or skepticism. It is only through this that the mistrust barrier can be broken. Although I believe that it is extremely important to deliver high quality dental treatment, it is equally important to have an atmosphere of mutual trust. This is necessary to create magic through proper diagnostic, preventive and restorative care that can change and extend people’s lives!