Dr Michael Sultan discusses the vital importance of the dentist/patient relationship
According to a vast array of studies, there are numerous benefits to what is known as "continuity of care" – that is, patients seeing the same doctor for each medical treatment or check-up.
This isn't isolated to patients and GPs, however, there are links with dentistry too. We all have patients who come in as regular as clockwork, who we've seen in the chair for years and years, and whose teeth we know like the back of our hand.
And these are usually the patients who are sat in the chair for the shortest amount of time – they're the green light people – the in and out patients, the ones who do what we tell them and have, as a result, a better level of dental health.
The key here is the relationship we develop with these patients. We know their concerns and their habits, and in turn they are more comfortable discussing their oral health (and, indeed, general health) with us. Through this relationship, we provide such patients with a far better service, purely because it is more personal.
This is an important indicator for how crucial it is to reinforce the patient-practitioner relationship in order to retain patients past their initial check up and keep them coming back again and again over the course of their lives. But, as we know, ensuring this is now more difficult than ever.
We are all becoming aware of how much more transient our patients are, how easily they may drift off to another practice if they don't like the way they are being treated. This isn't to say that patients are less loyal these days, it's just that they have greater expectations and a keener, more sophisticated desire to get what they feel they deserve. Which, ultimately, makes our jobs even harder.
However, making that relationship work is something we should always strive to achieve, because it will always be in the patient's, and our own, best interests. We should always attempt to make our practice somewhere patients want to return to – while also making our service as attractive and empathetic as possible so that our patients feel safe and comfortable.
We need to keep up with the times and appreciate that just offering good dentistry might not be enough to retain patients. We need to be able to offer the latest treatments, the best techniques and, importantly, the elements of dentistry that modern patients want: a good website, easy booking, the new technologies and more. But most vitally, we need to be able to offer them trust.
There are undoubted benefits to maintaining a positive relationship with our patients – from bettering their oral health to ensuring they keep coming back to the practice for treatment – and, crucially, it's important we strive to keep up our standards of continuing care.
Dr Michael Sultan leads EndoCare, one of the UK’s leading specialist endodontic practices and a trusted referral centre. For more information call 020 7224 0999 or visit www.endocare.co.uk