What’s Your Patient Style?
Are you a great patient?
Some patients are lovely to work with. Some are more challenging.
Every day I see people from different cultures and backgrounds in our office. Within this diverse mosaic of humanity, different patterns and trends emerge as to how people approach dental care.
In all honesty, the differences I see aren’t based on culture. Your Patient Style is mostly related to your personal attitude to dental care. When you enter into our dental office for the first time, you might feel nervous or vulnerable. Before long, you’ll feel more trusting and secure. You’ll relax and reveal your Patient Style.
After giving it some thought, I’ve narrowed it down to the 8 Patient Styles I see on a consistent basis.
The first 4 styles represent the 50% of our population that regularly go to the dentist. Those are the types we see in our office every day. I call them the Happy Regulars. For Part I of this report, I’ll reveal these first 4 patient styles.
The remaining 4 styles correspond to the 50% of people who don’t go to the dentist. These are the ones who rarely step into any dental office. I call them Dental Avoiders. In Part II, I’ll review those 4 styles.
Discover which style you fit into…
These people are friendly, reasonable, and easy to get along with. The majority of patients in our office behave this way. They’re relaxed, happy and satisfied. They trust us to take care of them.
Most of us are easy-going when everything is going along smoothly…
Many weren’t always so easygoing. Some were anxious and upset when they first came to us. Having had a bad experience somewhere else, they weren’t very trusting of dentists.
With patience and a little TLC on our part, it doesn’t take long to rebuild trust and get people out of a negative spin and back onto a relaxed, easygoing path.
Of course our nature will depend on the circumstances. Most of us are easy-going when everything is going along smoothly. That can change in a heartbeat when something unexpected happens.
I’m pretty easy going, but when I’m faced with a difficult situation, I tend to get more intense and vigilante. I’ll adopt a more involved, action-oriented style.
Let me share a personal story… I used to be a daredevil skier. Some years back, I damaged my knee in a bad fall out in Whistler. Up until that day, I had no interest in the intricacies of ACL Repair.
Once I tore up my knee and needed that surgery, my priorities changed. I researched ACL Repair like a maniac.
Sure, I could have relied on blind trust in my doctor, who was excellent by the way. As a patient, I much prefer being in a position of informed trust. I quickly researched my options and was ready to move forward.
These people are willing to go to a dentist, but it’s always a struggle for them.
Anxious people can still be terrific patients…
Have you had a bad dental experience in the past. Every time you go, do you feel you’re reliving a part of that past nightmare? That’s how it is for some people.
Some suffer from anxiety issues and going to the dentist can become a strong focus for their anxiety.
Some are fearful by nature, and some people are just fearful of dentists.
Are you the dramatic type? Does every little ordeal become a big production?
Some people act out their emotions with great splendor. We often see this with young children, occasionally with teenagers, and the odd time with adults.
Anxious people can still be terrific patients. They’re highly motivated to stay healthy, and they’re most appreciative of the many efforts we make to keep them comfortable. Options such as Sedation Dentistry can make their experience far more pleasant.
For whatever reason, these people are more difficult to get along with. Instead of an easy-flowing, cooperative dynamic, there’s an adversarial undertone.
People who behave in an antagonistic manner are often trying to control a situation. They either want to make things to go a certain way, or avoid things from happening.
Defensive posturing is common in dental offices.
Some could be considered hostile. There’s nothing wrong with speaking up to be heard, but these people tend to display inappropriate outbursts and overly aggressive behavior. They might have learned to get everything their way through force, intimidation and manipulation.
It’s as if they’re carrying a big imaginary sword and they wield it without any restraint. Some are take-charge “A-type” personalities. Some are just overly competitive – seeing every interaction as a win-lose scenario. And these people refuse to lose.
At Royal York Dental, we hardly ever see anyone behave in such an aggressive manner. Some people might be like that in other areas of their life, but when it comes to visiting the dentist, they see us as friends and supportive allies.
Do you have a defensive style? Some people have a reflex tendency to assume a protective posture as if others are trying to do harm or take advantage of them. It’s as if they carry a big imaginary shield to protect themselves.
Imagine yourself in conversation with someone wielding a sword and holding up a shield. Conversations tend to be adversarial in those situations.
Some people lack trust and have a tendency to focus on perceived threats rather than on goals and opportunities. They firmly stand their ground, put up barriers and silently resist whatever comes their way.
Defensive posturing is common in dental offices. People show up acting on the defensive – they’re afraid of dental procedures, concerned about expenses, and feeling uncertainty about their health choices.
I find the secret to disarming people is to earn and deserve their trust.
Once someone gets on the defensive, moving them forward becomes a struggle.
We often see defensive behavior with newer patients. Once people get to know us, that quickly disappears. Defensiveness and resistance vanishes. It has a lot to do with our friendly atmosphere and the confidence we instill.
I find the secret to disarming people is earning and deserving their trust. We make it clear we’re on their side and we’re going to be their champion on matters of dental health. We’re going to lead them forward, so they can relax knowing they’re in good hands.
Antagonistic behavior isn’t always a bad thing. Imagine a mother’s child in danger. Trouble can happen fast. A protective “mama-bear” response can be entirely appropriate.
These people are demanding. They want the best. They can be pushy in some ways, but they’re pushing for speed, excellence and better results.
There are different types of finicky. Take food for example. Every parent knows how finicky children can be about eating. Food aficionados (foodies) can also be very finicky, but for totally different reasons.
We LOVE finicky patients, and they love us back.
Some people could be classified as health aficionados. They’re very particular and have high expectations. They can be demanding, but only because they really care about how things are done. They appreciate quality and want the best when it comes to healthcare services.
We LOVE finicky patients, and they love us back. When we meet or exceed high expectations, patients are ecstatic and become raving fans.
Thanks to Google, Wikipedia, etc. people are coming to us better equipped with a higher baseline of knowledge than ever before. This is a wonderful thing. A well-informed consumer is more finicky and tends to make the best choices.
The old way was very doctor-centered. Doctors were put high on a pedestal as they held all the knowledge and expertise. If you needed help, they held total power over you. Thank goodness it’s not like that anymore.
It’s so easy dealing with well-informed patients.
Our mission is to continually guide people towards better health, and knowledgeable people achieve that faster. Picture it this way – when you come to us well-informed, we don’t need to handhold you as much. You’re not coming from a place of total darkness.
Stay healthy and keep smiling!
Dr. Joe 🙂
About the Author: Dr. Joe Bulger is a West Toronto dentist. He’s also the owner-founder of Royal York Dental – a respected dental clinic serving Etobicoke since 1950.
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