The Telegraph columnist Alex Proud wrote this week that while public trust in figures of authority has reached a nadir, dentists stand alone in their ability to elicit unquestioning trust.
He was puzzled about why but thought a reason could be the disorientating emotions many patients experience on their visits. The fear as they arrive in the waiting room that quickly turns into a rush of gratitude when they emerge pain free means quibbling about the bill never occurs to them.
Admittedly, Proud’s findings were based on a straw poll among his friends, but what if he’s right? Scandals have made it difficult, stupid even, to place our trust in banks, power suppliers, hospitals, police forces, MPs, newspapers, Fifa, the Catholic Church, Tony Blair ad infinitum because we trusted them and they lied to us.
Trust in GPs is slipping – the fact it’s so hard to see the same one every time you make an appointment might explain why a 2012 poll conducted by Bray Leino revealed twice as many people (19.7 per cent) value their relationship with their dentist over their doctor (9.9 per cent). The study found 88 per cent of people had a very high degree of trust in their dentist.
Dentists on the whole really have no reason to lie to patients as their agenda is always straightforward: fix and protect oral health according to whatever patient budget the practice is positioned to target.
For those grudging patients who don’t and won’t trust anyone with their teeth, there is a lot of material to build on to ease their suspicion. Taking more time to assess their mouth, explain treatment plans and guide their hygiene regime is a good start.
On another front, put the message clearly in your marketing collateral – the copy on your website, in your email signature, on your brochures – that gaining the patient’s trust is your priority.
If you can get across the simple message that mutual trust is mutually beneficial for your patient’s bank balance and your stewardship of their oral health, the big ticket items – when they are needed – will sell themselves.
If dentists are the most trusted professionals, who are the least trusted? Connect and share your thoughts with us on LinkedIn.