Dental relationships – Part 2

Tuesday December 07, 2021

Last week I discussed the importance of communication in any relationship, specifically the healthcare provider/patient relationship. Trust is mutually built as this relationship develops over time. 

“There’s not enough time in the day.” Have you ever used this excuse? I said this yesterday to someone. We all tend to waste a lot of time, or at least don’t use the time we have as effectively as we could. You would think that in our technology-filled world, time management would be easier. Some of this technology actually gets in the way by adding even more of a time commitment to things that reduce interpersonal communication.

Here’s an example. It’s time to buy a new car. There are many different car brands and within those brands are many models. No matter what dealership you go to, they will gather a minute amount of information about you, or maybe none at all, but guaranteed, they have a car on their showroom floor that they tell you is the right car for you. They will spend a countless amount of time talking about the many new features that their brand has, and the options between different models. If the salesman worked for a different brand, or if you went to a different dealership, you would hear the same reasons why that brand is right for you. Their goal is to sell you a car.

If you went into a dental office and the dentist spent all their time talking about their array of technological gadgets and how they were right for you, how would you feel? If you went to a different office and that dentist had a different set of gadgets, they have a bias as to why theirs are right for you. You would feel like you were trying to be “sold” something.

Branding draws us in. You may have a preconceived notion that a particular make of car is what you “need”, or see a dental advertisement that attracts your attention. 

It doesn’t take much to realize that there are many different brands of anything that would satisfy our needs. 

Whether it is a car or teeth, there are often gaps between the “seller” and the “buyer”. There is a gap between what we really need and what we think we need. There is another gap between what the dentist or salesman thinks we need and what we think we need. And, more specifically, there is often a serious gap between the value some dentists have, and the value they feel they can discuss with patients. Sometimes we feel we don’t have the time to discuss these things, and other times we are afraid we will scare you away.

Dentistry offers people so much that they want and need. Why don’t people get it? What would permit someone to have this resource available, and fail to use it? What would cause them to misunderstand it so thoroughly that they fear it more than they fear the consequences of not collaborating with a dentist?

Dentists need to communicate facts and truths. They need to convey expertise and enthusiasm. This goes back to the idea of time I have mentioned so often in the past. Dentists need to spend time with patients, not hard-sell with little information, and let the patient decide what the best line of treatment is for them. 

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. He has a special interest in treating snoring, sleep apnea and TMJ problems. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at

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