Dentistry focus: Beyond the chairside manner

It’s no revelation that the dentistry profession isn’t particularly glamorised in cinema or literature.

Tim Burton invented the character Wilbur Wonka in his film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to elaborate on the childhood background of the eccentric confectionary factory owner Willy Wonka.

Wilbur is the disciplinarian dentist father of William Wonka and is played by none other than Christopher Lee, whose name is synonymous with that most iconoclastic figure of orthodontia – Dracula.

Sartre parody
In literature, the prominent French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre based his play, Huis Clos (No Exit) in a waiting room.

Sartre himself famously refused to waste his time seeing a dentist – even when his coffee and smoked-stained teeth began to decay.
TV comedy
Television doesn’t fare much better for the dentistry profession either unfortunately. The comedy show, Armstrong and Miller, has a recurring sketch whereby a hapless patient is sat powerless in a dentist’s chair as the dentist makes inappropriate conversation in explicit and grotesque detail (but to hilarious comic effect) seemingly oblivious to the patient’s distress at having to listen to a gruesome account of the dentist having to worm his dog.
Singing dentist
Even Broadway has its own singing ‘sadistic dentist’ – Orin Scrivello – in the musical, Little Shop of Horrors (based on the 1960s Roger Corman film) – ‘I thrill when I drill a bicuspid/It’s swell though they tell me I’m mal-ad-just-ed’.

What all this suggests is that, for better or for worse, a visit to the dentist and the dentist’s so-called ‘chairside manner’ is ingrained in the public’s collective consciousness. Fortunately, in today’s interconnected society, conveying a chair-side manner that extends beyond the clinic walls can be achieved with maximal effect yet with minimal equipment and/or time constraints.

Modern technology can allow even the most apprehensive technophobe to set-up, record and edit a cost-effective, yet professional-looking, video. An uncomplicated, personalised video promo welcoming and informing viewers about your practice can make all the difference in distinguishing your practice from the competition. And it can have a number of applications.

Potential patients and regular patients alike can be reassured even before stepping into the clinic by a professional and informative video embedded onto a practice’s website. These videos could just be a one-off introduction to the practice itself – or even possibly a series of detailed instructional videos of specific procedures.

Forewarned is forearmed as they say. Especially if they’re about to have a forearm halfway inside them removing a problematic wisdom tooth.

A FAQ or ongoing Q&A section could also be incorporated to further establish a practice’s expert credentials as well as nurture the patient/professional rapport. Other links could have first-party testimonials from satisfied patients or you could include useful case histories.

Remember, your practice’s brand and how it is presented gives a patient (potential or otherwise) an idea into how professional your practice is. This has invaluable subsequent spin-offs such as word-of-mouth recommendations to friends and family and greater access to a wider potential client base. The image represents the quality treatment from the reception desk to the dentist’s chair and beyond. It is your chairside manner on permanent display.

Many an amateur hour stand-up comedian has played up on the words of why a medical professional’s business is called a practice and why those sitting anxiously in a waiting room are called patients.

However, with some personalised and informative preparation, a dental practitioner’s chairside manner can be achieved before the patient even arrives at the clinic – and continued long after the anaesthesia has worn off. And perhaps, even the late Sartre himself, had he known, wouldn’t have been so despairing.

Hell is the dental surgery I used to go to.

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