I just returned from a business trip to California. While there, I had the opportunity to see two friends.  One I’ve known since graduate school (a long time ago).  The other friend I’ve known since first grade (an even longer time).

What struck me was how, in terms of our relationship, time seems to have stood still, as well as how the passage of time has seasoned my relationship with them both.

On the one hand, things are very much the same as I remember them; the same sense of humor, mannerisms, preferences, dislikes, etc.  On the other hand, the degree of openness; their willingness and ability to share their dreams, challenges, and disappointments has only increased with time.  This has occurred notwithstanding the infrequency of contact.

What does this tell us about our relationship with current and prospective patients?

First, if we want to change peoples’ opinions, attitudes and beliefs about their oral and overall health and well being, we’re likely to be disappointed if we expect this to occur overnight (or even within a year) of first making their acquaintance.

The key is to, as an old friend would often remind me, “Adopt the pace of Nature: her secret is patience.”  Begin slow and simple, being sure to gauge your new patient’s sensibilities and priorities, then “run the race at their pace.”  Provide means to receive feedback, so you know what (and when) the patient is ready to hear about the next step toward a lifetime of oral and overall health.

You patient relationship is just that, a relationship.  Nurture and cultivate it as you would any other valued friendship.

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