Dr Mark HassedOver the past several years I've been fortunate to go into practices and observe dentists working with patients. In that time I've seen a number of common errors with communication that kill case acceptance. Over the next few months I'll be presenting those errors and giving you the solutions.

I hope that you enjoy this series.

1. Minimising

Of all the communicational faults I see committed by dentists this is the most common.

This occurs when a dentist tells a patient something but does it in a way that leaves them wondering if what they’ve told them is actually serious or important. Here are some examples: “You’ve got a tiny crack in that tooth.”, “There’s a little bit of infection.”, “There’s a small bit of decay.”, “Your front teeth are just a touch loose.”, “Your teeth are a fraction worn.”

Either a tooth is cracked or it’s not. Either the gum is infected or it’s not. Specifying that the crack is tiny or that the infection is only little is not at all helpful. If a crack is really so tiny that it is insignificant then don’t mention it at all.

Dentists tell me that they minimise because they don’t want to upset patients.They think that by minimising they are being kind. Nothing could be further from the truth.

By minimising you are doing a disservice by not letting the patient know about the seriousness of their dental problems.

Instead of minimising do this. If a patient has a crack in their tooth say “You’ve got a crack in that tooth. If we leave it the risk is that tooth will split.” This is completely accurate and let’s the patient know the true situation.

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