A Sturdy Foundation for Relationships

May 7, 2021 Mary Osborne RDH

What would you like to build your relationships upon in your practice? With all the attention that is paid to dental insurance, it sometimes seems as though that becomes the foundation of our relationships with patients. When this is the basis of our relationship, the moment the plan changes, the patient may be looking for another dental office. Do we want to have our relationship based on such a fragile platform?

When I think about what we could have at the foundation and how we could make this happen, several things come to mind.

Compassion as the Basis

Basing a relationship on compassion can begin with the very first phone call. When a new patient calls, compassion can be expressed by something as simple as, “What prompted you to call us today? I hope you are not experiencing any discomfort.” Right out the gate, you are putting out there that you care about their comfort.

For a new or an existing patient, you might to say something like, “I’d like to make sure we schedule enough time to do this very thoroughly…very gently, and that we provide you with the best possible service so you are as comfortable as you can be.”

When you talk with patients about conditions you are seeing in their mouths, you can express concern as simply as saying, “I see a crack in this tooth, and I am concerned that, as it gets larger, you may experience some pain. Have you experienced any pain there?”

Mutual Trust as the Basis

On the very first call, you can begin to base your relationship on mutual trust and respect. You might do this by saying something like, “I’d like to schedule enough time for you to get to know us and for us to get to know you. When we learn what is important to you, we can help you make choices that are in your best interest. We’ll want to know what your previous experiences have been in dentistry because we want to provide you with the best possible experience in this practice.”

During Hygiene appointments, you might say something like this, “As I look in your mouth, it appears to me that over the years, you’ve gone to the dentist regularly and done everything you could to take care of yourself. You’ve chosen to have treatment when it was recommended. I believe that if you have the right information and you have some support in working through the process, we can help you make good choices for yourself in the future.”

If the patient is not in pain, you might say something like, “You’re in a really good position right now. We’ve got time to study the information we’ve gathered and to learn about your preferences. The doctor will want to go over all the information we’ve gathered today and spend time thinking about your oral health circumstances and options. If you decide later to have treatment, you will be fully informed about your options so you can make the decision that is right for you.”

Shared Values as the Basis

When we discover shared values in conversation, there is a powerful connection between us and the patient. If a patient mentions a filling has lasted for decades, you might say something like, “It seems to me that you like to have your dentistry last as long as possible?” And if the patient says yes, you might say, “Excellent, we’ll take that into consideration when we think about options for you.” Give them opportunities for discovering together with you what is most important to them.

The foundation you intentionally build on compassion, mutual trust, and shared values will enable you to expand conversations you have with patients about insurance and the cost of care. You will be able to assure them you will do whatever you can to make the dentistry they value affordable for them.

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Mary Osborne RDH

Mary is known internationally as a writer and speaker on patient care and communication. Her writing has been acclaimed in respected print and online publications. She is widely known at dental meetings in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker. Her passion for dentistry inspires individuals and groups to bring the best of themselves to their work, and to fully embrace the difference they make in the lives of those they serve.

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2 Transformative Tips to Leverage Phased Therapy for Single Tooth Dentistry

April 23, 2021 Kevin Muench DMD, MAGD

One of the greatest challenges of dentistry is developing a conceptual framework for how to approach complex cases. We leave dental school bright-eyed but unfamiliar with the personal and professional tools that help us get to know patient needs and provide optimal care over a lifetime.

Phased therapy is a skill that takes time to develop but creates the mental space to build relationships and techniques simultaneously. How do you follow through on a treatment plan over the course of many years, phasing out the process to improve the patient’s experience, your experience, and their ability to afford it?

Single tooth dentistry may seem simpler than a full mouth reconstruction, but it still poses its own set of challenges. You’ll be able to gain skills without requiring patients to commit to a heavy financial burden, but you’ll still need to manage esthetics and deal with unforeseen issues with occlusion.
A dental career is one marked by introspection that necessarily leads to improved patient care as you gain greater self-knowledge alongside technical skills. Here are 2 tips you can use to develop your love of both simple and complex cases, your long-term relationships with patients, and your passion for dentistry:

1. Approach Learning as a Layered Process

It’s easy to get hung up on technical prowess and let your communication skills or personal development suffer. The mountain of knowledge that exists in dentistry is formidable, especially the way it is presented early on in our dental educations.

But you don’t have to build Rome in a day. Start with single tooth dentistry so that you have time to learn the technical and behavior skills along the way that will build your confidence to tackle bigger cases.
Longevity in a career as physically and emotionally demanding as dentistry requires that we approach learning as a layered process. Each case deepens our understanding of how to evaluate and succeed at the next one. Along the way, we can find joy in each incremental improvement.

2. Build Trust Through Patience and Demonstrable Success

Nothing works without the patient’s trust and acceptance. They will be more likely to say yes to a simpler restorative case. What you’ll find is that as they get to know you and you get to know them, their willingness to engage in future dentistry will improve.

With patience, you’ll put in the work to improve their health and esthetics. The fruits of your labor will naturally result in greater trust.

Later this year, I’ll be hosting my course “Think Global, Work Local,” at Pankey Online. During this course, I’ll dive deeper into the concepts I’ve brought up here.


I’ll be covering three cases that stood out in my career, including the details on preparations, impressions, fee presentation, treatment planning, restorative care, and case results.

I can’t wait to see you there for this opportunity to dive into a Pankey-infused approach to learning over a lifetime!

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night with private bath: $ 290

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Kevin Muench DMD, MAGD

Dr. Muench started his private practice in February, 1988. Graduated from Boston College in 1980 with a B.S. Degree in Biology. In 1987, he graduated from New Jersey Dental School with honors and was elected into the Dental Honors Society, OKU. He received the Quintessence Operative Dentistry Award and the Dentsply Fixed Prosthodontics Award. In 1993, he received a Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry and in 2002 received a Masters in the Academy. He has completed greater than 1500 hours of continuing education since Dental School. He is an alumnus, visiting faculty, and an Advisory Board member of one of the most significant continuing education groups, The Pankey Institute. Kevin resides in his family home in Maplewood where he was born and raised. Kevin and his wife Eileen have three boys; Colin, Tommy, and Michael. They strongly believe that participation in community efforts are what make the difference in Maplewood NJ.

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A Change in Behavior Begins with a Change in Belief

July 26, 2019 Paul Henny DDS

Three-quarters of human brain growth takes place in the first three years of life.

And that represents almost everything except the prefrontal cortex, which does not fully mature until around the age of twenty-five. This means that our ability to cognitively process…our ability to understand and respond appropriately to lower brain functioning, and particularly our emotional system, is quite limited early-on. Yet that is exactly when most of our beliefs about the world and how it works are formed and rarely challenged. So, when a person comes into the office claiming that “When I was a kid, the dentist put both feet on my chest to extract the tooth. It was horrible. I hate going to the dentist,” we are actually dealing with a belief and not a fact.

Responding to “When I was a kid…”

It is counterproductive to begin a new relationship with a person by telling them that they are wrong and don’t know what they are talking about. So, we have to begin someplace else, with the goal of facilitating a change in belief over time, and not with a goal of convincing others how much we know and that they should surrender to our intellectual prowess. Start with the understanding that we humans don’t like to be challenged as wrong. Also understand that we’d often rather be wrong than right, simply because it feels better to our ego.

It turns out that the only way beliefs change is through an inside-out process of self-reflection, re-assessment, new realizations, and new assumptions repeatedly confirmed by new experience. Before there is a commitment to action, your patient with negative beliefs about dentistry must go through this. And, I’ll bet you weren’t thinking all of that was going on in your patients’ brains, but it is…every single day. That is why relationship-based dentistry holds so much power and potential.

Truly helping relationships are the only vehicle through which significant personal change occurs in dentistry. L.D. Pankey said, “Know your patient,” not because you can use the knowledge strategically to defeat them on an intellectual level, but rather to help pave the way toward significant change and therefore better decision-making.

We can’t manipulate our patients toward becoming healthier.

In fact, the more we try to manipulate people, the more their lower brain recognizes something is wrong. It doesn’t know what, but at least it’s smart enough to stop listening, and focus on self-preservation—like staying away from people who will likely put “both feet on their chest.”

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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