Ooey gooey sticky!


I read Chip and Dan Heath’s book, “Made to Stick” for the first time a few years ago. The book is about communicating so that ideas and recommendations stick and really change things. Over the weekend, I picked it up again, leafing through some of the chapters I had flagged during my first read. I pulled so many great pearls of wisdom. This book wasn’t written for dentistry, but there are so many applicable connections we can make to our daily lives in the dental practice.

Scroll down to learn 3 sticky tips to make your treatment recommendations STICK.

Stay Inspired,


3 Simple Tips to Make it Stick!

I’m extremely passionate about communication.  When we work with private coaching clients, communication is one of the major teaching points we include in our training.  We know one big industry secret…. patients will brag about you and your office with reckless abandon simply by how you make them feel.

If you take 2 dentists with an identical technical skill set, the dentist with the better communication skills will be perceived more favorably by patients than the dentist with the same technical skills but lacking the communication style of their counterpart.

Do you want to know how to make your patients feel important, valued and listened to?   I have three key areas for you to implement right now in your practice.   I promise you, if you adhere to the principles of proxemics, sticky communication, and multi-faceted learning, you’ll increase your patient’s perception of you and your practice dramatically.  By no coincidence, we’ll also improve patients’ health by tapping into these key communication strategies. Great bonus, huh?

  1. The term “Proxemics” is used to describe our body positioning during communication.  Proper body position is the first key to increasing your communication effectiveness.  With our private coaching clients, we teach this principle very clearly.Clinicians should always avoid explaining a clinical finding, disease process or treatment plan while the patient is lying in the chair in that vulnerable, ” bug on their back” position.Which position would allow for better two-way communication when talking to a patient about serious clinical findings, a new disease diagnosis, and complex treatment recommendations?

    DH Textbook Pics 005.jpg DH Textbook Pics 003.jpg

    Take home message #1 –Never communicate complex clinical findings, disease diagnoses, and treatment plans without repositioning the patient upright in knee-to-knee & eye-to-eye.

  2. Sticky communication is detailed and relevant. Your canned speech about home care doesn’t have “stickiness” because it’s interpreted as too generic.Take home message #2– Always infuse your patient communication with as many individualized details as possible.  Sticky communication would sound like this… Mary, with your recent diagnosis of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, I’m very concerned about the fact that you have an active gum infection. We now know through emerging research that periodontal infection, along with high blood pressure and high cholesterol put you at a high risk for heart attack or stroke.”This has much more sticking power than if the hygienist simply said, “I found some deeper pockets around your back teeth and I think we might consider having you come back for scaling and root planing.”
  3. Multi-faceted learning is the key to long-term behavior change. I love this quote by William Glaser on how we learn.“We Retain . . .
    • 20% of what we hear
      • 30% of what we read
        • 40% of what we see
          • 50% of what we hear and read
            • 60% of what we hear, read and see
              • 95% of what we hear, read, see and do”

    Take home message #3 – Simply explaining a disease process is not effective for long-term retention of information. The key is to layer as many sensory inputs as possible. For example,

    • You tell the patient what to listen for before doing the perio exam
    • Patient hears you calling out perio numbers
    • You hand them a copy of their perio chart while sitting knee-to-knee
    • You make their diagnosis personal
    • You show them an educational video
    • You hand them a pamphlet to take home
    • You show them their bleeding with mirror or intra-oral photo

Good luck this week integrating the 3 keys for more impactful communication!

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