Cute little girl attentive listening to her grandmother

Not one size fits all

Date: April 2021

Author: Mandy Dennis, RDH

Have you ever gone shopping and the salesperson walks up and shows you what you need?  Does he/she hand you the item without asking your size, what you are looking for, why you are there?  As providers, we can sometimes think we know what our patients want or need. Instead, we should stop and listen. Asking appropriate questions can help us make appropriate recommendations.

Professionally Listening

We work in a profession where much of our work is repetitious. There are days I’m working and I hope the patient in the next room can’t hear me. There are many times I find myself saying a lot of the same things again and again. I try to remember the questions I ask lead me to helping each patient. While many of my questions may sound similar, the patient’s answer changes. Those answers lead me to asking the next question. It's important that I listen to the answers. The answers are what gives me direction as to my patient's needs.

In the business world, listening and completely getting the sense of a question will reflect on your success. It is the same in healthcare. Listening to our patients will allow us to successfully recommend the personalized care needed and home care products.

Earning Respect

Does your patient respect your recommendations? Choosing to listen before making a recommendation will help your patient trust what you are saying. Interrupting your patient with your amazing knowledge may fall on empty ears. People want to be heard. Your patient may be more likely to follow through with your recommendation if their concerns have been heard. If a patient tells you they have sensitivity and you identify they are a high caries risk, a prescription toothpaste may be recommended. You can solve both problems with a suitable recommendation, such as Colgate PreviDent 5000 Sensitive, telling your patient that the toothpaste you are recommending will also assist them with additional fluoride to help prevent caries and that you are recommending this due to their risk for cavities. You can follow it up by informing your patient that this toothpaste formulation specifically addresses their sensitivity.

Assume there’s more!

I believe many patients have questions, that they are either afraid or unwilling to ask. One reason patients may not ask questions is not understanding the medical terminology you used. We need to be professional and yet use conversation and vocabulary that will be clear for our patients. Give your patient permission to ask more! Instead of finishing the appointment with “Do you have any questions for me?” ask “WHAT questions do you have for me?” This will let your patient know they can and should ask more. You are waiting for more.


- Listen to your patient before recommending any type of product. Paying attention to your patient’s answers will lead you to the next question.

- Don’t make a 'one size fits all' recommendation. Use your resources, such as Colgate Professional Direct, to make recommendations tailored to your patient and their needs and that offer convenience.

- Give your patient permission to ask more questions.

Don’t assume you know what your patient needs based on what you immediately see and your credentials. Listen to your patient. When we listen to our patients, they will want to listen to us.

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