Are you a fearful dentist?

A ‘bad experience’ may result in a memory that going to the dentist, or receiving dental treatment is a very painful experience.
This can prevent some patients seeking dental care until an emergency situation arises. You can appreciate that in these cases that health care professionals understand the patient’s fears and tailor make their care accordingly.
As dentists share a similar psychological and physiological make up to patients, then it is equally important we understand our own needs and what makes us fearful.  

Fear can be defined as:  ‘In the future, we assume more loss than gain, more pain than pleasure, more challenge than support, more negative than positive from someone, something or yourself.’  

You can have fear in any of the seven areas of life (spiritual, mental, vocational, familial, financial, social, physical).  You can never have a fear of something in the past as fear is always future orientated.

High flyer – low self esteem
I consulted with a dentist who had a fear around treating a very high profile patient of his.  When we investigated this further, we found that the patient was a partner of a very large law firm and the dentist felt intimidated by this. Nearly every time she had an appointment with him, he would have an unrealistic anxiety and the fear would make him lose sleep at night. He was not being true to himself and curtailed his normal treatment options and costs so that the patient would not reject them.  

After breaking down the individual components of his fear, we explored the worst-case scenario if this fear came true. He began to see the benefits he would get from being ‘rejected’ by this patient and the drawbacks of remaining accepted by the patient.

When his perspectives around this patient came into balance, he finally broke through them. He grew from the message and was not intimidated by the fear of rejection anymore.  He then offered the treatments that the patient wanted, with authenticity and that were within his skill set.  

The result of this was that the patient received the treatment of her choice and the practice received the additional fees.  The dentist went on to apply the same principles to other patients and fears in his life.  He grew as an individual and consequently the practice grew as a business.

Fear is a basic human emotion that has ensured the survival of the species. The result of fear is that we tend to move away from that stimilus which we perceive as causing the fear and we either hide or become immobilised. Staying emotionally stuck behind a long-term fear can be harmful to our health, finances or our relationships.

In practice, it is wise to be fearful of carrying out any new procedure or treatment until you have acquired the appropriate training, skill set and experience, as it may harm the patient. However, being competent and certain about what you can offer patients and not doing it because of fear can cause you to shrink in practice instead of shining.

Remember it is not the fear itself, but how you deal with the fear that is more important. Putting cause and effect into perspective in any situation, and balancing out any lop sided perceptions will assist you in moving forward and growing through the fears in life and in practice.

Key points
•    Fears are necessary for the survival of the species
•    Remaining fearful will cause harmful effects
•    A balanced perspective on things will reduce fears
•    When you grow as an individual so does your business

Dr Nav Ropra is an international public speaker, human behavioural educator and dentist. For more information, visit Nav will be speaking at an FMC webinar on 22 April 2013 and at this year’s Dentistry LIVE event on 7 June 2013. To book, call 0800 371 652.


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