Dr. Nammy Patel talks about what to consider when choosing a dentist. She explains why you need a dental care provider who is a good fit for your unique situation.
John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher. I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California, helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole body health, and author of the bestselling books “Age with Style: Guide to a Youthful Smile” and “Healthy Living and Total Wellness: Understanding the Link Between Your Teeth and Your Health”. Today, our topic is tips for choosing the right dental care provider. Welcome, Dr. Nammy.
Dr. Nammy Patel: Hi, John. Thank you for having me.
What to Consider When Choosing a Dentist
John: Sure. So Dr. Nammy, what are some of the most important factors to consider when you’re choosing a dental care provider, and how can patients ensure that they find a dentist who meets their needs and their preferences?
Check Out Their Website and Reviews
Dr. Nammy: The first thing that I would recommend if I was going to be looking for a new dental provider is that I would get to look at them, and I would check their website out. I would look at some reviews and see what patients say. And the first thing you want to notice is, you don’t want only positive reviews. If you’ve got only positive reviews, there’s something that’s going on.
You want to look at some negative reviews as well, because it’s important that the business takes that information, and you want to take a look at that information to make sure that this is the right place for you. For example, if you were going to come to my practice, there are certain things you should know. Number one is, insurance doesn’t cover very much. You are paying a premium for holistic services, which insurance does not pay for, and you are electing to be in my practice, right?
Consider Their Bedside Manner and Practices
You’re also looking for somebody who has great bedside manners, also great experience, who knows what they’re doing, there’s a proven track record for everything we’re doing. And we’re not hokey. We’re not saying that we are holistic because we don’t use fluoride. We’re really holistic because we really look at the whole body. And you’ve got to make sure, which practice do you want to be with? Do you want to be with a practice, for example, that says they’re green because they recycle, or do you want to be with a practice that says, “oh, we’re green because we really look at our entire business model, and look at how we can be sustainable at each step, from the time that we choose our vendor who we do credit card merchant processing with to really looking at helping other businesses and helping our community and things like that. So depth is really the thing that you want to look at and make sure that it’s a right fit for you.
Learn About Their Protocols
The second thing is, the provider is really important because the quality of care is going to be determined by the provider that you see, and other systems and protocols are going to be what’s determining your outcome. You want to make sure that they are well researched, that they are doing things in a way that is going to yield a result.
Are they pre-testing, post-testing? For example, if their deep cleaning’s already taken an x-ray before and an x-ray after to make sure the radiographic calculus is removed. So you really want to get into detail with the provider that you’re going to be working with, and that’s how I would check which kind of provider that I would want to choose.
I would look at online reviews, I would meet them in person, I would ask specific questions, and I would go deeper and really look at what specifically… For me, personalized experiences are really important. I’m not the norm. I like to make sure that my provider is giving me customized care and is looking at my genetic history, is looking at my current conditions, is looking at how to be preventative, and focusing on how to be preventative in the long term. Those are the things that I usually look at, and that’s what I would recommend that you do too, as a patient.
Insurance-Driven Vs. Patient-Driven Practices
John: What are some common misconceptions about dental care that patients can try to avoid when they’re selecting a dentist?
Dr. Nammy: The number one thing that patients can do to avoid pitfalls when selecting a dentist is just really making sure, are they in your network or insurance driven? You want to make sure, are you in an insurance driven practice or are you in a patient driven practice?
Because there are two different practices. A practice that’s driven by insurance will take your insurance, but the care is going to be very nominal, versus a practice that’s going to be highly customized because, just a smart or a logical perspective, there’s no way that a practice that is solely insurance driven is going to be able to give you the care that you really need.
They have to meet certain numbers of quotas, they have to meet a certain number of patients that they have to see per day, and it really makes things complicated because your care is going to be affected. And that’s the first thing that you want to note.
Is this practice solely insurance driven, or is it patient driven? Now, a patient driven practice, they’re going to customize care for you. It’s personalized, you have a personal relationship. They’re going to recommend things for you that are specifically for you, and they’re prevention focused. So it’s probably going to cost a little bit more because they’re focusing on prevention. They’re not going to do things that your insurance pays for, they’re going to do things that you actually need, which is very different from an insurance practice, which is solely going to focus on what your insurance covers.
How to Assess a Dentist’s Qualifications and Experience
John: And so how can patients assess a dentist’s qualifications, experience and track record? Is that information public that they can look at?
Dr. Nammy: The majority of the time, if you just go online, you’ll recognize how long they’ve been practicing for. And then also when you meet them, you just know because they have that confidence. When you meet somebody, you either feel very comfortable with them or you don’t. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you don’t feel comfortable with the person, don’t work with them. And I tell patients sometimes, “it may not be the right fit, and that’s okay. I’m just interested that you’re served, and if it’s not me, by someone else. And we’re here as a researcher, we’re happy to guide you, we’re happy to answer questions or whatnot, but we may not be the ones working together.”
So when it comes to figuring out if the provider is the right person for you, you’ve got to meet them. That’s the only way you’re going to know that this is the right fit for you, because you’ve got to assess, is this person, the time, the energy, the cost, all the things I recommend, does it resonate? Does it not resonate? And if it doesn’t resonate, that’s okay. You can find somebody else. We’ve got a lot of dentists in the US, which is great, and my wish for you is that you are seen by a good one, and somebody who’s interested in your best outcomes.
How Communication Affects Patient Satisfaction
John: What about a dentist’s communication skills and their chairside manner, their overall approach to patient care? How did those types of factors play a role in determining patient satisfaction and outcome?
Dr. Nammy: The number one thing that you’ll realize is if the practice is patient driven, and if the dentist is patient driven. That means a communication skill is going to be in alignment with the patient. It’s going to be, some people like a lot of information, some people just want to know, what’s it going to cost, how long it’s going to take, and can they do it today?
Again, these are just interpersonal things that one feels. For example, you and I feel very connected when we’re speaking, it almost is like you’re sitting right next to me because there’s this energetic exchange that we have and it feels very comfortable. And when a patient is assessing a dentist, they have to feel comfortable. If they don’t feel comfortable, then they need to do further research.
When I have somebody who doesn’t feel quite comfortable or I sense that they’re… And sometimes it’s not me, it’s them. They have certain things going on in their personal background, or they’re worried about how much it’s going to cost, and I say, “slow down, we don’t even know what you need first, so let’s not get to the cost. Let’s go through what you actually need first, because I want to know that I’m serving you, and that means that I’m helping you in any way that I can. If you just focus on the cost, you’re not going to learn anything from me, which is pointless because the whole reason you came here is because you wanted to have a personalized experience and you wanted to know, what can you do?”
And I’m going to give them to you. Certain things will be things you do at home, certain things will be things you need to do in the office, and certain things may be things you need to consult with your medical doctor for, which we’re going to help you get through.
So just understanding and taking a moment to create that space to just be present with the person you’re in front of, and listen, and get that information from them first, and not be so focused on the end result. Kind of be part of the journey, because a journey is really important in a dentist’s communication skill and chairside manner, and their overall approach, because they’re giving you the information right then and there, so you have no questions because they’re telling you exactly how they’re approaching you, exactly what they recommend, and why. And if you can pay attention to those things in the process, then it’ll actually make you feel more confident in making the right decision, and also choosing the right provider.
How to Build Trust With Your Dentist
John: And talking about feeling comfortable, a lot of people feel nervous visiting the dentist. Maybe they’ve had some negative experiences in the past with the dental procedures or things like that. What advice would you give to someone who feels that way, and how can patients help to build trust and rapport with a dentist?
Dr. Nammy: The best way I recommend building rapport with a dentist is to communicate with them. Be upfront, be honest, just as you would with a friend. You had a bad experience, you want to make sure something doesn’t happen, let them know.
And that’s first thing that I ask patients if they feel nervous, what’s the nervousness about? Why are you nervous? Is it a bad experience? And usually it’s that they didn’t feel heard, and sometimes they don’t feel comfortable communicating, or they don’t feel comfortable or feel safe enough to be able to communicate. And we have to create space for that because you do matter.
And it’s really important to me that I listen to what occurred, so I can make sure I avoid it. I always let them know, “hey, I’m not a hundred percent. I’ll get things wrong, but you’ll know that where I’m coming at, the space that I’m coming from, is going to be to your advantage where we’re working together as a team. It’s not you versus me, I dictate, you do. It’s not like that at all. What it’s about is, let’s work together. Let’s co-diagnose, let’s figure out what’s going on. Let’s figure out how to make this easy and comfortable for you.”
Because the trust isn’t a foundation for somebody who’s nervous. If somebody is nervous, if they don’t feel comfortable, their gut is telling them something, “slow down, just slow down.” Your gut is just telling you to pay attention. And if you pay attention to what your gut is saying and you slow down for a minute, answer all those questions, then you will be safe, and it’ll allow you to have a better experience, because fear is a good thing. Fear is telling us to pay attention. And if we’ve been burned in the past, which I feel like we all have at some point in something or some way, it’s life.
So in order for us to move ourselves forward, it’s important that we create a clean slate. And the way that we create a clean slate is by taking accountability and responsibility for our experience. So when we feel nervous, “why do I feel nervous? Is it that this person is saying something or am I living in the past? And if I was living in the past, what did I not pay attention to back then that I now need to pay attention to? And so let me take three extra minutes, figure out specifically what those three things are so that moving forward, I feel really good.”
Contact Green Dentistry Today
John: All right. Well that’s really great advice, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Dr. Nammy: My pleasure, John.
John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call 415-433-0119.