The reality of why MOST people do not get the dental treatment they WANT and DESERVE is basically one or more of five reasons, and my team and I have been trained to address EACH ONE!
“Dr. Sartini, I’m just SCARED!”
These are patients that have been hurt in the past and have fears of how they were treated happening again. This is what I call Dental Anxiety, and it is VERY real and debilitating from the standpoint that a patient would rather let a tooth get to the point they “can no longer stand it” before calling me for help. Sound familiar? For this reason, my advertising slogan for 25 years has been:
“We Cater to Cowards”
This is on all my billboards and is one of the main reasons people call me. They don’t want to be hurt! I like to say “Most of my patients have feathers!” meaning, yes, I have “chickens.”
At the very first appointment with us, I want to know what a patient’s past dental experiences were like. On my dental interview page, I tell my story of being treated roughly and belittled. Sometimes, unfortunately, patients do get a rough, uncaring dentist or hygienist or assistant. We talk with the patients and work to undo those fears. The top reasons I get are “the shot” and “the noise”.
Addressing getting numb; I have a compounder at a local pharmacy that makes me a special mixture of numbing cream that the assistants apply before I even come in the room. The patients usually say, ” I’m already going numb!” I also use the smallest needle I can on everyone, not just kids. As for the noises, I don’t like them either! We have noise reduction headphones for music OR we have these awesome video glasses that patients can watch a movie on! We tuck a blanket around them and get started once they are relaxed. The patients are always in control and I assure them we will stop whenever they need a break or want to ask me something.
There are times I have to prescribe a sedative before their dental appointment, and I do not mind doing that, but I can honestly say after the first few appointments they don’t ask for it anymore. It’s all about gaining their trust and confidence in me and my staff not to hurt them. People want to be assured of that and we don’t let them down. I have so many patients ask me,
“Remember when I first met you and I was so scared I cried?
Now, I love coming to the dentist!!”
Urgency “Nothing is bothering me”
In dentistry, by the time a tooth is hurting you, the nerve has become affected by the decay and it becomes more involved to repair. I often use analogies’ that patients can relate to, or have happened to me! Like if I had my oil checked and it looked low to the mechanic and I said “but my car is running fine”. That mechanic is thinking “It’s running fine now, but once that oil is gone then she will get damage to the engine, that’s going to cost a lot more than an oil change”. That’s why I do the examination, so I can look at the xrays and see decay, or clinically, fractures in teeth the patient can’t see. We use photography in our office and the image of the tooth is placed on a TV or computer monitor so the patient sees what I see, and they understand why I’m concerned. This way the tooth is repaired before the damage becomes costly or sometimes not repairable. Even though nothing hurts. I am trying to prevent future bigger problems.
“I just don’t TRUST them”
Losing trust is crucial in life. It can happen in any relationship or experience. Regaining that trust takes sensitivity on the side that is seeking the trust, and allowing for another chance on the side giving it. This happens everywhere from different dentists, restaurants, hospitals, airlines, grocery stores, even churches….people can feel they “got burned” any number of places where human communication is involved. Trust in the dental office can be lost in different areas. “The front desk messed up my appointment and blamed me for it”, “the hygienist hurt me”, “the dental assistant choked me with those impressions”, “the dentist started working when I wasn’t numb and wouldn’t stop”, “they messed up my bill and insurance”. These are true situations patients have shared with me. We encourage the patient to be upfront and honest by telling us what happened for them to lose their trust. Then we worked toward regaining it and never giving them a reason to lose it again! I tell them, “In life you are going to come across “bad apples” wherever you go, but don’t give up on people and let one bad apple ruin the whole bushel and keep you from moving forward in life.”
Money “I know I need work done, I just can’t afford it”
This is a huge reason patients don’t get the treatment they need and deserve. A lot of our patients are on financial plans. I tell patients I’m thankful I get to make payments on my house and still live in it. I’m thankful I didn’t have to pay up front for my car when I drove off the lot. If you have extensive decay, won’t wait. It’s bacteria and grows. Like mold on bread, you look at it the next day and it’s spread. We have found CareCredit® be the most forgiving in the credit score department. Patients are also using their HSA, Health Saving Account from their work more and more also because its pretax dollars used toward their health. And for the patients who don’t qualify for financing we make them a Personal Treatment Account that they contribute to whenever they want, how much they want. When their account is built up, they come in to receive their work.
“I just don’t have the TIME”
This type of patient we will schedule their appointments specific to when they can commit to coming in. We offer appoints up to 5 pm and early as 7 am. Often these patients will want all their work done in a one or two visits instead of several small ones. I have done ALL the dental work in one day on several patients and it has worked well for their schedule. We put them in a movie to watch with our video glasses or have them wear our noise canceling head phones and hook up their phones, or use our music. We cover them with a blanket and put a pillow behind their back and go to it!