“How Soon should I do this, Doc?”

That was the question I heard last week from Sam, a very successful entrepreneur and business consultant  whose open proximal contact between a large, wide and  fractured composite restoration and a healthy tooth was causing chronic irritation to his periodontium. The tooth is clearly in need of a full coverage crown.

Now, we’ve all heard that line a million times in our practices. Back  in the 80s, gurus and consultants told us to give patients a sense of urgency to do their dentistry. “Get em to commit right then and there, while you have ‘em in the chair”, they’d say. “That way they can’t back out. And you know they need the treatment” When I heard this in the beginning of my career, I became agitated. And I still get agitated when a speaker, writer , or  one of my colleagues talks about getting a commitment from a hesitant or nervous person on extensive treatment during a brief chairside conversation.

I’ve always been uncomfortable with this blanket, one-size-fits-all  strategy for profitability. You see, wellness is elective. And, whether we like it or not, sometimes life throws other urgencies at people. Having teeth is elective. And maybe, just maybe, that seemingly successful person who lives in the great neighborhood may have more serious priorities in their lives, whether we think so or not!

If we are to have a meaningful, healing , nurturing relationship with people, we have to keep it real. Dr Pankey’s first rule was know your patient. In an era when people formerly known as patients have become consumers and we dentists are motivated to make their lives better,  it is absolutely critical that we behave in an open honest, nurturing manner and make them feel safe in expressing their concerns in the same way (yes, those we serve can nurture us every bit as well as we can nurture them).

Instead of establishing urgency to dental treatment, why not take a moment with that person and explore how it fits into their lives. Lead them to make THEIR best decision on that crown, that implant, that full mouth rehab that we are chomping at the bit to do. Because when the receiver of the service is in control of how and when they receive the treatment, we all benefit.

And if and when that person comes into your office with a condition that absolutely cannot wait, like early endodontic pain that’s about to become a full blown abscess, your sense of urgency will be quite real and credible.

It turns out that the company Sam is consulting is in a bit of trouble, but will be paying him a huge sum of money next month. So he asked if he could call us in a few weeks to schedule his work without any financial anxiety. We listened, we understood, Sam appreciated it, and the work will get done at a time that makes sense for him. After all, it’s HIS life we’re looking to make better.

Mission accomplished


Better, Richer, Stronger - Dr. Alan G. Stern / The Life Coach for Dentists
804 West Park Ave. Ocean, NJ 07712 / (732) 493-8030

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