Associateships: What Important Traits Should You Look to Improve?

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Aug 23, 2017 @ 11:00 AM

dentist-and-practitioners.jpgAre you still looking for an associateship, searching to align your practice philosophy with an employer dentist who fits your approach perfectly? Or have you instead finally been able to lock in that associateship position and are awaiting your starting date? Wherever you land on the spectrum, there are many ways in which you can improve your personal skills to be a better associate once you join the dental practice.

If you’re apprehensive about this first phase of your career in dentistry, don’t fret! Courtesy of Dr. Bianca Velayo, this recent THE NEXTDDS live training event entitled “7 Simple Strategies for Successful Associateship” highlights several ways that a new associate or future associate can improve their preparedness.

Communicate Effectively

Take a look at your interpersonal skills. Communication is a huge part of any job, and becoming an associate or eventual practice owner means even more connections between your staff and the patients you’re treating. When staff members look to you for leadership, and patients begin to put their trust in you, how are you choosing to best deliver your message? Think about the three basics of communication: body language, tone of voice, and your choice of words. If your communication needs work, focus on each of these fundamentals to build better social skills. In addition, establishing a good rapport with your employer dentist will be key to forming a lasting mentor relationship that will constantly be guiding you to your next steps both personally and professionally.

Build Patient Rapport and Trust

Establishing effective communication skills will translate into your conversations with patients. Make eye contact, have a firm handshake, and keep the patient comfortable. It’s also of importance to listen to their concerns and complaints. Lean in and get the patient to relay as much information to you as possible in order to determine an accurate diagnosis, and further continue the necessary steps into treatment and case acceptance. On your end, make sure to educate the patient on his or her treatment options, rather than advocating one over the other. Each patient is an individual with distinct needs, concerns, and comfort levels. Once you build a patient-centric approach, delivering treatment in an ethical way will become second nature. This will lead to long-term patients, referrals, and consistent production.

dentalcareforelderlyjpg.jpgWhile it might be easy to treat patients like family members, there may be patients that are tougher to manage. It’s important to relay treatment options to them in a relatable way, and believe in your diagnosis so that patients can truly witness your expertise as a dentist. If they reject treatment, be assertive in your approach, and they’ll soon trust that you hold the keys to their health. If a patient has a broken tooth that needs a crown, and the patient instead asks you why he or she can’t opt-in for a filling instead, stand your ground. Patients who try to self-diagnosis may think they can take advantage of your youth or excitable nature to change the treatment plan. If you succumb to their wishes every time, they may lose trust in you. Be an assertive new dentist that stands behind their diagnosis.

Time Management

You might be used to the three-hour block exams and treatment plans in dental school, but those days will soon be over. Patients typically don’t have that kind of time, so you should respect the time they take to come in for an appointment. As an associate, building speed and compliance comes with practice, practice, and more practice! Ask for help when you need it, be open to feedback, and try to become more focused with less breaks to help build this new skillset. Instead of relying on your smartphone, wear a watch to be aware and keep track of your time, and set reasonable goals to try to slowly trim the time it’ll take you to perform a clinical task.


An associateship comes with a substantial amount of responsibility, and a learning curve to overcome. Whether it’s becoming familiar with your duties, working alongside your team members, or coming face-to-face with patients that are in need of treatment right away, there’s a lot of different circumstances coming your way. If you make a solid effort to improve upon your personal tools, you’ll have an easier transition as you begin coming into contact with your peers and patients every day. Good luck and success in your associateship!

Watch the "7 Simple Strategies" Webinar

Tags: associateship, communicating with patients, communication, patient communication, personality traits, leadership traits, patient rapport, patient trust

Establishing Patient Comfort and Making a Solid First Impression

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 @ 10:49 AM

doctor-patient-communicatio.jpgDental treatment makes many patients anxious. If a dentist is friendly, communicative, and ultimately makes the patient comfortable in the chair, he or she might be a retained patient for years to come. Therefore, it is imperative to make a solid first impression with each new patient. Patients who are happy with a dentist’s services and how they are provided care can influence referrals and drive the productivity and growth of the practice.

Making patients comfortable is an important skill for a new dentist to master. Draft a script for new patient phone calls, i.e., to set expectations for his or her office visit, and then implement this system for each potential patient in your practice. It may be advantageous to tailor your message according to the type of patient on which you’re calling. Different types of patients walk into your office every day. He or she may be a new patient, a referred patient seeking the right practice, or an existing patient who is experienced with the practice staff and culture. Gaining the trust of these different types of dental consumers is the difference between a potential patient being retained, or leaving for another practice.

Courtesy of Dr. Cody Mugleston, practice owner in Henderson, NV, and UNLV School of Dentistry, ’11, a recent THE NEXTDDS virtual training event discusses topics such as the importance of mentorship, how to develop leadership skills, and building relationships with your patients. Below are several key points outlined in the presentation.

Focus on Patients, Strive for Personal Connections

A patient-centric practice is all about building confidence and developing the diagnostic and chairside skills to do what’s best for each patient. Know patients’ names and dress the part. Introduce yourself to new patients and welcome them into the practice personally. Ask questions and actively listen. Sometimes, patients just need to vent their frustrations, and a dentist’s shoulder is there to cry on. Giving patients extra time to share their thoughts could translate into more referrals. Patients will become more aware of your emotional intelligence and capacity for understanding.

Get to know patients on a personal level. In his patient charts, Dr. Cody Mugleston makes personal notes about each patient: how many children they have, what they do for a living, where they live, how they heard about the practice, and what their hobbies are. As other members of his team interact with the patient, more notes are added, and conversations become more natural and friendly. Engaging in this way and being more attentive towards the patient can improve his or her trust with the dentist and staff and establish deeper relationships.

Establishing Clear Communication

Male-dentist-shaking-hands-with-patient-resize.jpgA patient-centered practice differentiates between wants and needs, encourages patient questions about the diagnosis, and works to address patient fears, concerns, cost, and follow-through. Patients can become apprehensive upon first arriving at a practice. They may be anxious about treatment and not open up about their deeper oral health issues, instead merely sharing what they think needs to be said. Some dentists work at this level, and never get past this basic connection.

Probing beyond this initial hesitation means patients can begin to communicate effectively on their concerns and expectations for their care. Beyond this, the doctor-patient relationship goes into a stage of desires and deeper subconscious feelings (e.g., improving way of life, having an aesthetic smile, etc.). The key is to allow patients to open up and be comfortable to reach this level of the relationship, and meet them at their deepest concerns. What are they most worried about, or hope to change during treatment? Is the chief complaint localized to a specific tooth, or does it involve a more comprehensive approach like an occlusal issue? If the end goal of treatment is positively established and met with a warm rapport, the money, time, and effort will be less of a concern for the patient.

The new patient examination and consultation are incredibly important in this area, and allow both dentist and patient to collaborate on a desired outcome. In Dr. Mugleston’s experience, patients are more likely to accept treatment when they are invested in the proposed outcome. It is also valuable to communicate regularly with the patient to ensure treatment is proceeding according to plan and to confirm his or her satisfaction with the services provided by the practice.


Planning to lead a patient-centric practice means dentists, associates, lab technicians, and office staff need to communicate together and focus on achieving the utmost service to patients. Keeping a patient’s trust is an extension of this focus. When patients trust their professionals, especially for those that might have a clear dental phobia, they can have a positive overall experience and may even develop a personal loyalty to their practice of choice. As future dentists, dental students should not lose sight of what makes the practice grow and flourish—the patient’s perspective.


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Tags: communicating with patients, patient communication, first time visit, first patient experiences

5 Tips on Identifying & Communicating with Eating Disorder Dental Patients

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Oct 28, 2015 @ 01:00 PM

Student Ambassador Blog
by Andrea Sauerwein

dentist-with-patientAs rising dental professionals, it is crucial to remember that in addition to focusing on our patients’ oral health we may also be the first to identify and intercede with issues extending beyond their smile. Individuals tend to present to their dentist more regularly than their physician, emphasizing our role as advocates for patients’ overall health and wellbeing. These could involve eating disorders, substance-abuse disorders, obstructive sleep apnea, as well as domestic violence. Clinical signs and symptoms are apparent in some cases: erosion patterns of enamel due to acidic regurgitation, softened tooth structure and rampant caries due to “meth mouth,” fractured or avulsed teeth due to trauma. However, not all patients are forthcoming and willing to divulge the honest cause behind these oral problems. The question posed is how do we broach such a sensitive subject when patients are not forthcoming of their medical history or personal events, specifically the sensitive subject of eating disorders?

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, studies have found up to 89% of bulimic patients have signs of tooth erosion, due to the effects of stomach acid. Bad breath, sensitive teeth and eroded tooth enamel are just a few of the signs that dentists use to determine whether a patient suffers from an eating disorder. Other signs include teeth that are worn and appear almost translucent, mouth sores, dry mouth, cracked lips, bleeding gums, and tender mouth, throat and salivary glands.  

Kristi Hatfield, RD, MS, provides some tips on communicating with such patients you may suspect of covering up a history of eating disorder:

  • Start by asking if he or she has had a history with acid reflux. GERD typically affects the posterior (more so with maxillary) lingual aspects, whereas bulimia displays a pattern of mainly anterior lingual erosion. Trauma to the maxillary anterior may be evident (i.e. fractured incisal edges or mobility).
  • Don’t be afraid to use the word “bulimia.” Ask the question with compassion, but also with confidence. The more uncomfortable you appear, the more timid and closed off the patient will be.
  • It is essential to pose your discussion in a non-judgmental manner. Aim to build trust between you and the patient and avoid “coaching” him or her. Shame and denial are tightly linked to bulimia nervosa, and an individual may not be ready to open up to you at the initial exam.

It is critical to share your clinical findings with the patient and explain how their symptoms are linked. Make sure to:

  • Discuss with the patient the reason his or her dentition is in such state is due to a problem that needs to be identified.
  • Emphasize that no dental work can be performed to permanently remedy their dentition until such cause is recognized and treated.
The goal here is to cultivate motivation within the patient.  If a patient still appears reluctant to admitting a possible eating disorder, request a medical consult with their physician.

Compliance may be difficult to achieve, as an eating disorder can span many years. Eating disorders often goes through quiet and active phases, and dental professionals must be supportive throughout. Ultimately, communication is key to achieving any level of success. The sooner you can form a trusting relationship with your patient, the better your chances of aiding them in tackling this destructive psychological problem, and the better the outcome.

Find more helpful information by enrolling in THE NEXTDDS

Tags: dentistry, treatment planning, eating disorders, patient communication, diagnosing

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