Central Park West Dentistry: A New Treatment Philosophy
Have you ever moved to a new city and been overwhelmed by finding a dentist? You might scour Yelp reviews, ask people in your network, but ultimately you put the appointment off because of the lingering unpleasant memories (we’ve had our share). The office smells can be unpleasant, the drill sounds make you cringe, the communication makes your eyes glaze over, and it’s uncomfortable. It’s fair to say that the model is broken with 75% of the population experiencing some form of Dental Phopia (AKA odontophobia, dentophobia, dentist phobia, and dental anxiety). Yes, it’s a real thing.
Fifty percent of Americans will not visit the dentist this year. Two of the top reasons: fear of needing dental work, and the experience of the lecture, both of which can create an experience of shame and ultimately avoidance of important preventive visits. Both proper homecare and dental visits are critical to overall health and the variability of treatment is startling. The right dentist can work with you to remineralize a few micro-cavities, but the wrong dentist might drill multiple teeth that could’ve been repaired with the right treatment. The wrong experience leaves a bad taste in the mouth and overall confusion to say the least. A good dental office, however, can leave you feeling healthy and reenergized.
In an interest in helping people find the right dentists, we’re going to start a series that highlights our favorite practices and provides an in-depth look at what they’re doing differently. We love the team at New York’s Central Park West Dentistry because they want to change the way patients feel about going to the dentist, and that starts with eliminating what they call shame language. We try to do the same at Boka and they’ve been a big inspiration.
How do you make people feel welcomed and supported?
“We avoid saying anything that could make someone feel judged or discouraged,” says hygienist Lana Rovinsky. “We don’t care how long it’s been. We’re just happy that you’re here.” The clinical staff learn how to build trust and empathy with body language, tone of voice, and to establish a foundation of safety and connection by using words that eliminate shaming and promote a positive experience.
“Language has the potential to connect or disconnect people,” explains Practice Administrator Holly Mitchell, who helped co-create the training program with the clinical practitioners in the office. “Everyone has a story; if that story is met with empathy and non-judgment, shame won’t exist. We want you to know that we’re on your side, and we’re going to go everything we can do to support you in your journey toward your own unique, optimal oral health. We’re not going to make your visits about what you did or didn’t do in the past because we know life happens, and no one is perfect. It’s about what you want to accomplish now, and how we can help you achieve it.”
Questions you won’t be asked at CPW Dentistry:
“How long has it been since your last dental cleaning?”
“Are you flossing every day?”
“Does this missing tooth bother you?”
“Why didn’t you come in sooner?”
“Why aren’t you wearing your retainer?”
Shame Words you won’t hear at CPW Dentistry:
Bad, yellow, dirty, need to, have to, don’t, decay, policy
The shame training process is 4-fold:
- learning the CPW language
- creating connection and establishing trust and safety
- asking questions in a non-judgmental way to determine patient’s preferences, wants and needs
- collaborative goal setting for homecare
The clinicians then watch videos of previously recorded appointments to highlight opportunities to be less judg-y and more encouraging.
“Telling a patient who never flosses to do it every day is unrealistic. You’re just setting each other up for disappointment, which puts a strain on the relationship,” explains Rovinsky. “Why not agree on flossing once a week—if my patient does that consistently and tells me about it in 6 months, we’re celebrating that.”
As part of encouraging patients to take care of their teeth at home, CPW Dentistry has partnered with Boka to reward every CPW patient with a toothbrush and floss subscription, delivered to their home every 3 months. “If we can make the experience super easy and enjoyable, we can inspire them on the path to wellness. Boka helps make that possible,” says Mitchell. Boka is known for their beautifully designed and nature-friendly products.
Since implementing the new no-shame focus at CPW Dentistry, patient retention has improved by 13%. By making the experience pain-free and shame-free, in the office and at home, the doctors and staff at CPW Dentistry have managed to inspire healthy habits in a patient population of busy New York professionals.
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