Running a dental practice that succeeds as a business and that delivers high quality care to patients requires a unique combination of characteristics. It’s important to bear this in mind when you’re searching for a new dentist, especially if you’re in the market for a specialist or a sedation dentist. You’ll get a couple of minutes with the doctor during your initial exam, during which time you’ll want to do as thorough an evaluation as you can.
Three main characteristics set a good dentist apart. First, he has to be a good manager. Second, he has to be compassionate. Third, he should care deeply about remaining informed about cutting edge developments in his discipline. While most dentists will try to project these characteristics, there are ways to scratch the surface in order to know for yourself.
A simple view of management says that it’s about making sure your employees are on time and work while they’re at their desks. But good management requires that the manager create an environment that is conducive to success. He fosters a sense of well being. He makes them feel important and thanks them for their contributions. He keeps them in the loop. And he ensures that they are well equipped to succeed at their jobs.
When you see an administrative issue at a dental practice you might be tempted to blame the receptionist, but these issues are always the practice owner’s fault. You should keep your eyes open for these issues, since they indicate bad management. You can also tell a lot from the casual interactions between the dentist and hygienist during the handoff. Does the dentist thank the hygienist? Is it genuine? If not, there’s a practice management problem.
Beyond basic medical skill, the most important characteristic that a dentist can have is compassion. He has to be a coach for his patients, and at the end of the day he ought to be more interested in their dental health than he is about the luxury car he’s going to buy with the fee for a few implants. There’s a fine line in that, which should be walked with intelligence, but which must be navigated with compassion. A dentist without compassion will fall victim to greed.
But every dentist will project compassion, and it can be difficult to know whether it’s a projection or the truth. To test a dentist, spend some time before your appointment looking for a news story that should evoke a compassionate response, then bring it up during the chit-chat part of your exam. If the story doesn’t evoke a compassionate result, you probably don’t want to schedule another appointment.
Medicine is always a moving target, and dentistry is hardly an exception to that rule. There are always new procedures coming out, some of which deliver real benefits to patients and some of which are more about making money for the practice. An inquisitive mind always seeks to understand, and understanding is the foundation of honesty. So it’s important to find a dentist who is interested in his own profession.
If you’re considering a sedation dentist this is especially true, since sedation techniques add another level of complexity. The way to test a dentist’s level of intellectual curiosity is to ask questions. Someone who is curious will love to teach what he knows, so a few questions about something related to your case should get him talking.