Trust goes both ways

Nigel Jones reflects on trustworthiness and its place in dentistry.

From politics to brands, the presence or absence of trust influences our behaviours in so many ways.

The importance of trust in dentistry is evident for all to see and it could be argued that it is the foundation on which the success of dentistry has been built.

That evidence exists in the fact that half of the population voluntarily turn up for a health screening once or twice a year.

While we should always strive to improve, these attendance rates should be seen as a fantastic demonstration of trust in the chosen dentists of all those patients.


Over the years, I have found it helpful to refer back to the definition of trust first introduced in 2000 by David Maister in his book, The Trusted Advisor.

Maister gives one of the best explanations of this somewhat nebulous feeling, in the form of the trust equation.

In this equation, trustworthiness is built through three numerators; credibility, reliability and intimacy, and is reduced by the denominator, which is self-interest.

The applicability of this formula to dentistry is immediately apparent.

For example, it’s possible that many dentists, perhaps subconsciously, are compensating for the media portrayal of a self-interested profession by focusing on further qualifications to boost the credentials element of the equation.

However, trust is earned not given and the longer you have been seeing your patients, the more evidence they will have of how good you are at your job, your ability to manage their expectations and how well you know them.

My hope for 2019 is that dentists resolve to believe in the trust of their patients a little more.

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