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When patients first enter the door, you want them to feel comfortable, safe and confident in you and your staff. Whether it’s a new patient or someone who has known you for years, you want your office to personify trust and respect. Here at the Dental Assisting Institute of Virginia, we train our students on the art of communicating and understanding patients’ needs and wants when seeking their best smile.

One of the first things you want to do is hire great staff with fun personalities and warm personas. Make sure you are all on the same page when it comes to welcoming patients, obtaining information and introducing them around the office. You will want your office interior to be cheery and inviting with warm colors, personalized touches, and images that represent a fun and inviting practice.

If the patient is new, you will want to meet with them face to face before they go through the hygiene routine. Do not meet them when they are laying down in a chair already. If they are, have your hygienist lift the chair and sit down to greet them eye to eye and by name. It helps to list personal information they share in their patient notes along with their dental history (employment, family, hobbies, pets, etc.). Do not ask anything too personal that may cause offense. Listen and look for signs of uncomfortable discussions and divert immediately from the topic.

Greet them without a mask, gloves or chart in your hand. Be open and welcoming, friendly and enthusiastic, and acutely aware of your patient’s concerns. Something you can keep in mind is that you have two ears and one mouth, so you’ll want to listen twice as much. Make sure your smile and persona are welcoming. You may be tired, hungry or in a hurry, but you want to give a patient your full attention and care, making them feel like the number one priority.

By being more aware, you can hear their concerns, recognize any signs of discomfort or nervousness, and find out more about their own unique personality. After hearing their concerns and getting to know them better, you can adapt your approach on how to connect. You want to communicate with your mouth before opening theirs. You can add some light humor as you converge towards their treatment.

Establish signals beforehand and speak with your patient as you go over steps during cleanings, exams or extensive treatments. Let them know what you are examining and explain the process, especially when examining the neck. Be straightforward with any problems to establish trust and explain both problems and treatments simply for them to understand. Giving them a list of the full benefits of a needed treatment to help them understand why they are receiving it.

Some other tips when it comes to chairside manners include the following:

– Praise them for any signs of good dental hygiene and health.
– Customize your scrubs or coat; not anything too crazy, but something that embodies you. For example, a small trinket on your coat or fun and friendly character on your scrubs.
– Make eye contact not “mouth contact.” Your eyes may wander to the patient’s mouth when first introducing yourself, but the goal is to get to know the patient.
– Keep time in your schedule to have individual time before and after treatment.
– Have good hygiene and grooming. No one wants to smell your lunch, especially if they’re hungry.
– Follow up after treatment, especially after a few days after an invasive treatment.

If you are a dental student seeking personal, hands-on training in a real dental office, contact the Dental Assisting Institute of Virginia at 804-526-0231 to learn how you can become a part of the team today!