In this episode, Dr. Allison and Shawn share a message of hope and encouragement to dentists who are stuck in survival mode. In crisis, it’s easy to become bogged down by all the details that are required of you and lose the heart of what you are doing. Business can easily become mechanical as dentists go on autopilot as they oversee changing protocols and guidelines. This powerful message is a reminder to look at patients as individuals with unique needs and to rekindle the spark in your dentistry.

More than ever, patients need a dental provider who is ready to listen to the struggles they are dealing with. When dentists take the time to listen to their patients, to really look at their individual goals and needs, it benefits both patients and dentists. When patients feel heard and understood, and that their needs are acknowledged, it builds up trust with their dentist. No longer is the dentist someone who is trying to push an intervention on them, but someone who has tremendous value as they are offering solutions to the problems that are bothering them. This type of authentic connection grows your practice, and it also benefits dentists as it reconnects them to the heart of their dentistry.

When dentists remember why they got into this field, and reconnect to the dreams they had as they entered this profession, it can reenergize them to get through these challenging times. We all need a ‘why’ behind the ‘what’, and identifying what brings joy and what you love allows you to do more of that in your practice and bring your happiness into the workplace. Some dentists live for the relationships with their patients. So reconnect, slow down, create time and space into your day when you can listen a little more. Once you create space for this type of connection to your patients you will feel more fulfillment.

It’s hard to find hope for the future of your practice in a time when the world is in such chaos. But going back to the foundations of who you are as a dentist can equip you to get through these turbulent times and open up a new perspective. You might just begin to see some hope on the horizon.

Full Transcript Below

Shawn: (00:58)
Hey guys, this is Shawn and Allison with the authentic dentist podcast. And today we really are excited to share, um, again, more about just the hope and the humanity. Um, that’s at the heart of dentistry, you know, you’re, you’re thinking about all the requirements, all the changes, PPE costs, rising overhead costs, how to survive in this new normal. And we just kinda want to take a step back and kind of remember why it is you got into dentistry and reconnect to that passion that love because more than ever now, that’s what you need to do so that you can keep getting through these times.

Allison: (01:43)
Yeah. I, I think there’s just so much unrest in the world. There’s so much tension. We’re just in survival mode and we’re not at our best at survival mode at the moment the world, the world really needs us to be doctors really needs us to be at our best. And so we need to find that where is our highest self

Shawn: (02:07)
and that’s because it is easy as you’re doing business, whether it’s just business as usual or in a time like this, where everything is changing at such a frantic pace to again, get so caught up in you, you have to check the boxes to make sure that you’re following protocols to make sure that you’re, you’re doing everything right with patients when they come in, uh, to make sure that you’re in compliance, that it’s easy to overlook, not just the heart of your patient, but what’s going on inside. Right. And maybe you don’t even want to connect with it because it’s scary. It’s messy, it’s overwhelming. But man, like kind of rediscovering why you got into dentistry and your love for dentistry. That’s going to be refreshing right now.

Allison: (02:54)
You know, I think when we first went back five weeks ago, it was so much just to put the protocols in place and then you get better at it. And it almost on autopilot as I try and navigate this, but my patients don’t want me to be on autopilot and especially right now, they need to be heard. And so I, I like to come back and think, okay, why did I become a dentist in the first place? I mean, what is it that drew me to dentistry? And I do love to work with my hands. I like science and math, but the big thing was the relationships. My dentist, as a child, had relationships with his patients. And that’s what I wanted. That’s why I built my private practice because I wanted relationships. So losing that well, just makes it all even worse. And I missed it that six weeks where I didn’t have patients.

Allison: (03:53)
I really miss that relationship. I had. I mean, the funny thing is right now, I’m listening to you and I’m thinking, okay, from like a what’s best for you, it makes sense to connect to the heart of this, to your meaning, to your why for passion, but just from a business perspective, like we’re not talking about how to survive and thrive right now as like a business best practice, but a business best practice is to show up and to connect and to have better engagement with your patients. Because even what they’re going through, like you said, everyone is man, the pandemic has just devastated our nation and how people are responding. We don’t know, but I’m guessing anxiety’s through the roof, stresses through the roof and how people handle that. It’s different. And maybe people feel misunderstood, not seen, not known. And like you said, you have a chance to make them feel known. We have a chance to make people feel known and you know, it is about your practice, thriving and surviving. Because when you listen to people, you can help fill things that they need. And a lot of the things that you have as, as a dentist were fulfilling them, just information.

Allison: (05:17)
But I think I have noticed when I walk in the room, I just, I sat back my six feet and I take off my mask. And I just say, how you doing? And the flood Gates open just so much, so much and people need it. They need to be seen. They haven’t been seen, they’ve been at home, um, lots of bad habits that are affecting their health. So I might be the first health professional they’ve seen in a long time and they just need to talk and connect and they don’t want me to sell anything to them, but they do want me to make recommendations about how,

Shawn: (05:58)
how can they be healthier? How can I get them to a point where they feel normal again? So you’re recognizing right now more than ever in your practice. Um, I don’t know that the challenge you place on yourself to really push beyond even what you were great at with listening and like try to go even further of like really hearing what it is that they’re saying, what it is that maybe they’re not saying, but they’re communicating through what they’re not saying. Even if you get somebody who’s on a political rant and maybe it’s a political rant that you totally disagree with. If you can step back and just say something to the effect of, wow, I hear you’re really angry or I hear you’re really afraid. Is there something else going on with you because you wanted to keep moving it back to, to them and what’s happening to them because what’s happening in the world is alarming and disturbing.

Shawn: (06:52)
And there’s nothing that we as an individual can do except see people for who they really are acknowledge their humanity, acknowledge the struggle that we’re all caught up in right now. Um, you’re right. And just let people know that they’re, they’re seen. And that’s what I think is crazy though, is that what I’m saying is like, that is an awesome business strategy, but we’re not coming at it from, that’s a great business strategy. It’s just great for, I dunno, it’s I don’t wanna say it’s like the right thing to do, but it’s like, not only does it make you feel fulfilled because it’s getting you to reconnect with this is what I was missing. I was missing the connection with my patients, just that authentic care of, I care about you, not just your oral health, I care about you and really that’s how you grow your practice, but how you grow yourself to, you know, everything as the leader of the team, as a leader in your community, it all starts with you.

Shawn: (07:53)
And so you’ve, you’ve got to find your spark, your happiness, and you can’t just sit there and live in fear anymore. So what is it that makes you feel like you’re contributing? Like you’re an important piece of this and for me it is relationship and the listening. Um, it may be what the beautiful dentistry that you do. You may be really good with your hands and that’s fine, but you need to find it. What does that makes you happy? And then bring your happiness back to work because gone it’s gone for most people. So you mentioned, um, things have changed in the sense that maybe there’s habits, uh, that have started in some of your patients. Just because of, again, just the chaos of the crisis. Um, like what are some of the things that you’ve noticed that you’re having to listen or pay attention to that, that isn’t just the way it was three, four months ago. I think there’s, there’s a thing about the doorknob question that patients don’t want to say anything until you grab the doorknob and you’re about to walk out and then they’ll just

Allison: (08:56)
like spill something embarrassing where you have to turn around and go, wait, what backup. But if you give space and allow people to just talk and you listen without looking at your watch without feeling like you have to get up and in today’s world, I seem to have more time because I have to, they will tell you everything. So I had this patient that came in and I did all this dental work 10 years ago and it’s destroyed. It’s destroyed. There’s just decay everywhere. And then my little dental brain goes, Oh my God, I did a terrible job. I’ve made it. So even worse happened. And instead of like making him embarrassed or saying anything, I just asked him, how are you doing? What’s been happening? And he told me he was drinking wine for breakfast. It’s five o’clock somewhere. And my job is not to judge him or to admonish him.

Allison: (09:57)
My job was to listen. Why, why what’s happened? Did you always do this? You know, do you, do you think there’s a problem? And usually people tell you, Oh, of course not. There’s not a problem. But if you’ve said it I’ll think about it. It doesn’t have to be that moment of recognition. They’re going to think about it. Cause you said it as an authority figure and you just listen, the stress is really hard on him. He hasn’t been brushing his teeth. He’s out of his routine. There’s, Margarita’s at noon on his conference calls. So lots of bad things have been happening in the last 10 weeks for him. And it’s reflected in his mouth. We have lots to do, but I needed to hear all of that. Otherwise I was just sitting there going, I did bad dentistry on earth, but his life is crumbling around him. And I needed to hear that.

Shawn: (10:49)
Yeah. I mean that, that is, that is absolutely a powerful and it’s, it’s great that you didn’t kind of express that kind of judgment. Cause all that would do is just shut people down. You know, people don’t need to be told that the way that they’re handling stress right now is bad. Like it’s just, we need to move forward together with the current challenges.

Allison: (11:14)
But even in ourselves, it’s hard to identify, okay. What’s what is so wrong at the moment. And there’s so much, that’s so wrong because you’re looking outside. But if you look at you, you know that part of it is your routine has been really changed will patients too. And we, as dentists are probably still brushing and flossing our teeth every night and every morning, but that may have fallen out of their routine. They may have a different job. They may be sitting in front of their desk, drinking soda, maybe not wine, um, or maybe they’re grinding the heck out of their teeth and they’re breaking things. Their lives have changed and they don’t know why something is happening. So you gotta, you gotta listen, what is it? That’s changed

Shawn: (11:54)
in your life that you can fix. And they’ll tell you what it is. And then the light will go on for them. If you tell them what it is, it won’t help them. So it’s like this, um, almost like helping them, you’re like guiding them in this process of like kind of like discovery of how can they be their best, their best selves too. And you had a great story about a friend that went to the gym that I thought was very relevant to this. Yeah. I mean, so here a friend of mine goes to the gym, um, to join. So it’s to start a new membership. And obviously if you’re heading to a gym, it’s because you have a certain set of things that you’re wanting to get done. Like you’re driving to the gym, someone else isn’t taking you there and making you go and this individual went to the gym and then right after they kind of got past the initial, like kind of like sign up, they get bombarded with a, like a personal trainer that just started.

Shawn: (12:50)
I don’t know, kind of being maybe a little invasive with the questioning. And somehow there was no connection and my friend felt, um, misunderstood, uh, offended. Like it was this terrible experience where the trainer, I dunno, I guess it’s even hard to know where, where it rent went wrong. Well, I mean, we’ve all been shut down for a while. So I know there’s probably some high pressure where you feel like you need to make the sale. And that’s probably what happened there. You need to make the sale, but you don’t make the sale by telling people, Oh my goodness, you look terrible. Everything you’re doing is wrong. And I am the expert, right? They insulted her diet. They insulted her, her own health routine. You know, almost have this way of saying, well, clearly what you’re doing, isn’t working. So you need us. And it just was the wrong.

Shawn: (13:50)
The whole experience was just rubbed my friend the wrong way, which is really sad because she was there because she wanted to take a step in the direction of bettering herself. And they could have been a great fit for helping her accomplish that goal. But instead they just completely missed it. You know? So when you told that story, all I could think about with dentistry, cause we do that. We just go in and list all the things you’ve done wrong and that doesn’t empower your patient. Your patient came in and they took the first step or maybe they just came in because it was their six month checkup, but there’s so much going on. And the only way to take, get them where they want to go. The only way that your friend was going to get healthy, maybe was to hire the trainer and to learn what she needed to do.

Shawn: (14:40)
But she needed to, to be guided to that. She needed to make that decision rather than have it pushed on her with us. The crazy thing like objectively, we would both agree. That was probably the right answer. It was the right solution for her, um, best course of care for her health, but in the relating to another person and the listening in the communicating in the humanity aspect of just understanding someone and seeking to understand somehow that’s where the sales person or whatever happened in that dynamic. It just utterly failed, which was sad because it hurts the gym. And it hurts my friend where it could have been a good fit where it was a win-win help. The gym out. They get a new member, helps my friend out feels empowered that she’s moving toward her health goals. Instead it ended up being something that was a lose lose for both parties, you know?

Shawn: (15:36)
And we’re wanting to make sure that as dentists, that that’s not happening. And I feel like there’s probably more of a challenge now, like what you’re saying, because nothing’s normal with what your patient’s going through. What, what is their expectations? What are, what are they wanting when they’re coming to your practice? How are they wanting to be understood? How are they wanting to be taken care of? What are their, what are their goals? Like, there’s just so much to know and understand that. Yeah. It’s definitely a challenge. What you, as a dentist have to be able to do to be able to deliver great dentistry. We’ve also been talking about, um, just in other podcasts and all dentists about this infection control fee and insurance and how people don’t value us. Well, how do you create value? You create value by listening and solving a problem that the patient wanted you to solve.

Shawn: (16:30)
And that’s what happened with your friend. She walked into the gym, she had a problem. She wanted it solved. She wanted to be healthier, but if she doesn’t get taken care of and listened to and seen for who she really is, then even if she bought the sessions, she kind of resents it every time she makes the payment where she was like, Oh, I really want this. And it’s like a joy to make the payment. And that’s what you want. You wanted to create the value. This is, this is what I can do. And I want you to, to know how it benefited you and I want you to want it. Yeah. And I think part of the, maybe the, the approach that could have been improved is that I don’t think they really did lead with questions. Like when you’re leading with really seeking to understand, not be understood because it’s not like, you’re like, Oh, you need to understand how great our gym is.

Shawn: (17:23)
No, no, no, no, no. I need to understand how our gym can best serve you. But I don’t know that until I start figuring out why are you here? You know? And I was just being honest with you, dr. House, about how I have never been good at flossing. Um, and if someone didn’t ask me why they’d never discovered, it’s just because I don’t like, you know, the, the tactile, like holding the floss. So maybe you have a little flosser and you say, well, that, that should alleviate it. I still just, don’t like the smell of having whatever’s in my mouth. Kind of like in front of my nose, when the floss keeps coming out, like as weird as that is, call me OCD. I just didn’t like it. So if someone would have discovered that they would be like, Oh, why don’t you just try Waterpik? Well, finally, I’ve tried a Waterpik and I love it. But like, if someone was just going to tell me the science of why flossing is really good for you, it’s not that I knew it wasn’t good for me. It’s just somehow, um, unless they discover that and help me kind of talk about it and discover it, you could just tell me all you want, it’s the right thing to do. And I’d be like, I’m not doing it like, but people are odd creatures, you know,

Allison: (18:34)
once you gave that information, Hey, this is why I don’t like it. And I don’t know if the Waterpik was maybe the best solution, but it was your solution. My job as the dentist though, is to come up with solutions for you. And I have this wealth of information that could have given you options, because if you already know the why, then you just needed to know the how, but unless I know that I’m still focused on the why.

Shawn: (18:59)
Well, so I talked to a lot of, um, guys that, um, I know whether it’s in my church or to some of the social circles I’m in and they’re single and I can tell they they’re wanting to work on their body in some ways, you know, it’s something us guys talk about. So I’m like, uh, are you working out right now? And they’re like, well, I have in the past, but I didn’t stick with it. And most of the time when someone doesn’t stick with it, it’s because again, what their original expectation was. And then when ends up happening, it’s not aligned so they could disillusion, right? So most of the time I’m talking to people and I’m like, if you just go into a workout routine, um, and you just start working on your whole body in a very, even way, this things that you’re strong at are going to stay strong.

Shawn: (19:43)
And the things that you’re weak at are going to kind of stay weak because you’re just, I don’t know, you’re not strategically doing it. I’m like, if you don’t have a lot of time, because you’re really busy, there’s something you can just do for 30 minutes to work on certain areas that you’re wanting and you’re going to look great. Like you going to get the, if the payoff, if what you’re wanting is just to look better, I can help you with that. If you’re playing basketball with the guys at the gym and you, your stamina’s down and you can’t keep up in the fourth quarter, it’s a totally different assessment for what solution I’m going to come up with, because it’s not about vanity. It’s about you need better conditioning. Like it’s a totally different prescription. So yeah, like you’re talking to someone and until you really understand, what is it you’re wanting, why are you wanting it? How are you going to give them a prescription? Because I can’t tell you do these 10 exercises every night and you’ll get what you want.

Allison: (20:34)
And that the terrible piece is. So you gave them the exercises to look great. But what they really wanted was to be able to dunk that basketball. Right? So now they’ve gone through a lot of pain and effort and time. And at the end, they didn’t get what they wanted. And it’s because you didn’t ask the question. Well, that happens everywhere. If the patient can’t always tell, articulate, what is they want? So you have to get there. And really all you have to do is listen, because you can figure out what is it? What’s important here. Some people they’ll come in and they’ll tell you, Oh, my stomach hurts all the time. I’m dealing with some major, major stomach issues. And if it connect the dots and say, well, I know that you lost your four back molars last year. When did this start? Okay, I didn’t give a solution.

Allison: (21:22)
I just put the thought in and they may have to go home and think about this is this part of what’s happened when did this occur. But if they put those pieces together, all of a sudden they’re very motivated to replace those four molars. I didn’t have to really sell. I just had to say it’s possible. And this could be the solution. But if I had made that recommendation without that piece, that they had the stomach issues, they would have almost resented it. No, no, totally. And, and the only reason you found that out is because they were open to, to share. And it’s like right off the bat, you were telling me it’s about first off creating a safe place and an environment where they know it’s okay for them to, to be honest. And all of everyone, you know, in healthcare wants to make sure that they can be a trusted professional, like trust is the foundation of that relationship.

Allison: (22:15)
But yet when you don’t have that posture of seeking to understand, it’s like, people can tell, even if it’s like subconscious, it’s like, no one likes feeling like they’re being sold. No one likes feeling like they’re going through some, I don’t know, almost like automated checklist, just like have a questionnaire that’s detached from like what I’m different. Like I have different needs. I have different fears. I’m unique. And when you’re seeking to understand that you validate all of that, all of that. And you know, and especially in our current climate, when people are forced to wear masks, so you can’t see their expression. When we have rioting, when we have so many things that are dividing us, people want you to understand them. And in fact, it’s crucial for our whole world that we seek to understand. It’s a great business strategy. And it personally fulfills you.

Allison: (23:08)
I mean, it’s just a win, win all over the place where you listen. And again, you don’t have to listen to the political rant. You don’t have to listen to the patient that told me we were about to have the rapture. That, that, wasn’t what I needed to hear from him. I needed to know. Okay. So what’s happening. Are you staying up all night? Oh, okay. Are you taking any medications? Oh, okay. Now I’m a little concerned about you. So I want you to go home and go to bed and call me after you’ve slept eight hours and we’ll talk again. And all of a sudden his thinking was a little more clear, but all I had to do is tell him to go to bed. And did he know that?

Shawn: (23:45)
Of course he knew that, but when I said it, yeah, suddenly things were clear and it wasn’t that he was crazy. It was just that he hadn’t slept in a month. And he just had finally just created such a big story in his mind. It’s funny though, that you just said the mask thing, I was in Costco the other day wearing a mask and I realized I’m smiling. Like a people just like, yeah, I smile. And then I looked at myself in the car, like mirror, like smiling and my eyes didn’t look happy at all. I was like, did I just seriously go through Costco? Like smiling at people like my usual self, but I could have been just giving this look of like, I don’t like you. And I’m not used to that. Like, I didn’t recognize what a mass can hide. And we in dentistry know how important it is to have your smile said, have your smile covered, hurts your connection with people.

Shawn: (24:40)
Totally. And that doesn’t mean you, you don’t have to wear the mask you do in lots of situations, but it is taking away a piece of our humanity. And we sent it to know this it’s a big piece, which is why we’re just encouraging people more than ever like to focus again on the humanity of dentistry, the humanity of why you got into dentistry, remembering the difference that you wanted to make, the dreams that you had. You know, it’s so great to connect those dreams from your past and bring them into now just to kind of recenter realign. And then also think about where you’re wanting to go work. Like where do you want your practice to look like in the next four or five years? That’s been a weird thing. Cause I do have dreams for my practice, but I’m almost afraid to hope right now.

Shawn: (25:29)
It’s I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Am I going to be shut down again? I don’t know the zombie apocalypse. I don’t know. Well, there’s so much uncertainty. It’s like, it’s not the same as like, Hey, I know, um, it’s kind of like before the housing crash in 2008, you know, if you were in real estate in 2004, 2005, 2006, you could just keep you’re dreaming your goals. We’re just going to keep flipping houses. And then all of a sudden everything just collapses and it’s like, well, will it ever be the same? What’s the new normal going to look like? And there was a new normal, but that didn’t mean that you had to not have dreams anymore. Yeah. I think you always have to plan for the worst, you know, save your money, put money in your 401k, do the things you need to do, but you also need to hope for the best.

Shawn: (26:19)
And the hope has been squashed right now. So I do think that’s, that is one of our big messages today. Come back to who you were, why you came into dentistry, what is it you love? And then take a deep breath then and look for hope. There, there is going to be a future. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but people can’t go without us. So yeah. Keep those things in mind. Also, we do have a course that’s coming up. Um, we’re releasing it, probably what we’re finishing in July. So we’re going to release it in August. I think that’s our plan. Yes. We’re working on it. And Sean and I’ve had a really good talk about this course and we’ve decided that there are three major pieces and everyone always starts with a piece about grow your practice. How do you grow your practice?

Shawn: (27:06)
You invest in your practice. Well, I think we believe that the first thing you do is you invest in yourself. You invest in who you are, what your mission is. What’s important to you. The second course is about team invest in your team and what you want your practice to look like. And then your practice gets to grow and be amazing. But you can’t start with three. You can’t even start with team. You have to start with you because you’re the leader. Yeah. The first question is that leader from the inside out, that’s exactly what we’re going to be sharing about your authentic self, finding that, and then how that, um, kind of impacts the culture that you’re going to have with your team. And all of that is naturally going to impact the growth of your practice. Um, but we’re just, we’re excited that that is in development and that is coming around the corner. And we are on the record saying that it should be ready in August. We’re on the record shine. So yes, uh, today message of hope. Um, just reconnect to, again, your love of dentistry. And as Alison has been encouraging you, um, listen, and really seek to understand when you’re there with your patient, because that is what they need more than never.

Speaker 1: (28:26)

Speaker 2: (28:26)
Thank you for listening to the authentic dentist podcast to join Alison and John on this journey hit the subscribe button to never miss an episode here’s to your success. Express yourself fully live authentic.

Speaker 1: (28:43)

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