Most of us are familiar with Dr. Pankey’s “Cross of Dentistry”, which stated that spiritual (happiness & fulfillment) and material reward (financial prosperity and security) is an outcome of a developmental process requiring us to “Know Ourselves”, “Know Your Patients”, “Know Your Work”, and to “Apply Your Knowledge”.
Today, let’s focus on “knowing our patients”, as it is the key to more successful learning on their part, and this in turn is key to their movement toward better decision-making and ultimately a higher level of more predictable health.
The more we know our patients on both a physical and emotional level, the more effective teachers we become. Know little about a patient, and often we will be trying to teach things which they are not ready to learn, already know, or perhaps understand better than us (particularly the “why” behind their previous decisions).
Also of critical importance is how our patients perceive how we feel about them. Do they feel valued, or so they feel ashamed? Do they feel competent or incompetent at caring for themselves? And how much of our behavior towards them influences that perception?
The more our patients feel truly valued, the more they feel that we think they are interesting and extraordinary people, and the more they will be open to listening to us, as they will afford us the same esteem.
And their enhanced listening makes our teaching both more timely and effective. Simply put, the more appropriate our teaching, based on our knowledge of them, the more eager they will be to learn from us.
The more patients learn, the more they grow in their ability to assume responsibility for the direction of their future dental health. And that is the fertile ground from which successful, collaborative relations emerge.
Charles Sorensen said, “I believe that the Mission of a health-centered dentist is to help the patient reclaim or enhance their self-esteem, not claim straighter teeth, whiter teeth, or a better bite. They need to help each person to feel better about themselves…to be glad to smile, to be able to make friends more easily, to get a better job, to be a better lover, to be a better parent, and to be a better friend.”
And how can we possibly facilitate that through dentistry without knowing them well?
Paul A Henny, DDS
Thought Experiments LLC, ©2017
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