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What makes a GOOD dentist?

#emotionalintelligence attitude customer experience mental health relationships teams Jan 07, 2024

At some point or another we all made the decision to pursue a career as a dentist.  Given the time, money, IQ and effort required this isn't a decision that should or would have been taken lightly. 

I know for myself I wanted to be a dentist since I was 9 years old and it was driven by the idea of helping people.

The hard part is not just wanting to be a dentist but actually understanding what goes into being a good dentist.  Because being a "good dentist" is paramount to your success.  And you can spend a lot of time and money becoming a dentist - only to realize - you aren't good at it. 

And if you aren't feeling like you are good at it - you will eventually end up resentful, bitter, burnt out and feeling stuck. 

So - what is a GOOD dentist? What are the essential skills needed to be a good dentist?

Here's the reality - as health care providers we are providing a service.  And said service, at the end of the day, will be judged on one thing and one thing alone. 

How you made people feel.  

If people feel good after interacting with you - and by feel good I mean primarily emotionally feeling good, but feeling good physically is important too - they will like you.  If they don't feel good - they won't like you.  

Maya Angelou said it best - people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, people will never forget how you made them feel. 

So to that end - what makes a good dentist?  Someone who makes others feel good! 

Yep I said it.  Your success in practice is largely determined by how you make people feel. 

Make people feel good and have them tell you so - you'll feel good.  And if you own your practice - your success is not only dependant on how you make your patients feel but maybe more importantly how you make your team feel.   A team that feels good will ensure the patients feel good!  

Wow - that's a lot of pressure.  

But the good news is this is a skill you can master!  

It's called having high emotional intelligence and I believe it's a skill paramount to your success as a dentist. 

Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to understand and manage one's own emotions effectively, as well as the capacity to perceive, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others in a socially adept manner. It involves a set of skills and traits that enable individuals to navigate the complexities of interpersonal relationships, communicate effectively, and make sound decisions in various social and emotional contexts.

Key components of and emotionally intelligent doctor include:

  1. Self-awareness:

    • Recognizing and understanding your own emotions - how are you showing up to work? 
    • Identifying the impact of your emotions on thoughts and behaviour.  What energy are you bringing?
    • Having a realistic view of yourself and your strengths and weaknesses.  Own up to your faults.
  2. Self-regulation:

    • Managing and controlling one's own emotions.  This means not throwing instruments and storming out of rooms.
    • Demonstrating adaptability and flexibility in response to challenging situations.  This one is particularly important as we are placed in challenging situations almost daily,   How you deal with stress will make or break your career.  
    • Exercising good judgment and impulse control.  Being a dentist requires you to make hundreds of decisions a day - you need to have congruent guidelines and high personal integrity on how you are making those decisions.  
  3. Motivation:

    • Being driven to achieve goals and pursue professional objectives.  And your professional objectives need to be about more than just clinical excellence.  Being clinically excellent with low emotional intelligence will lead to immense frustration as you will find it difficult to practice at the level you really want to.  
    • Having a passion for work and the ability to persist in the face of setbacks.  This 100% relates back to your why?  Why did you become a dentist? 
    • Being optimistic and maintaining a positive attitude.  To be a leader - and regardless of if you own a practice or not as a dentist you are a leader, you need to be able to maintain a positive and optimistic outlook.  
  4. Empathy:

    • Understanding and sharing the feelings of others.  Empathy for patients and for team is paramount to success.  
    • Being able to perspective-take and see situations from different viewpoints.  This is where honing your listening skills will go a long way.  Most dentists talk "TO" our patients and not "WITH" them.  We need to talk less and listen more.  
    • Demonstrating compassion and a genuine interest in others' well-being.  Being able to step into the shoes of our patients or our team members can go a long way to enhancing your career success.  Stop thinking like a dentist.  
  5. Social skills:

    • Building and maintaining positive relationships.  If dentistry is about one thing - it's relationships.  The most successful doctors I know have relationship based practices. Practices that focus on building and maintaining relationships so we can ensure people leave interactions with us - feeling good! 
    • Communicating effectively and resolving conflicts.  Your ability to have hard conversations and confront the uncomfortable is a skill every dentist needs. 
    • Collaborating and working well within a team.  This one is a no brainer.  You cannot do this solo.  So figure out how to nurture a team to do the best for you.  

Developing emotional intelligence can lead to improved interpersonal relationships, enhanced communication, and better overall well-being.

It is a valuable skill every dentist needs in both personal and professional contexts.

Having a high EQ can contribute to effective leadership, enhanced teamwork, and ultimately patient attraction and retention.