How a young boy’s unpleasant dental experience became the foundation of Heart-Centric Dentistry

Heart Centric Dentistry? What the heck is that you might ask. 

I use it as a generic term to describe “any kind of dentistry that runs deep on empathy, meaningful connection and a patient-centric mindset.”

Before I explain how I practice it in my clinic, let me share how it dawned on me. It’s a secret not many people know 🙂

My First Dental Experience

At around 15-16 years of age, I had moderately crowded teeth. There was a canine mutant that hung at a mysteriously high level compared to the other teeth. It didn’t look good when I smiled.

My Dad, a doctor, took me to an orthodontist (a dentist who specialises in correcting crooked teeth of all types- simple!) for a consultation. He was one of the leading Orthodontists’ of the city, and reaching his clinic was a mini-headache in itself.

The old roads of the Jaipur city, the crowded shopping arena, endless stairs, a deserted floor, splashes of “paan spits”, and one dental clinic visible at the far corner. You walk closer to the clinic, and a characteristic smell engulfs your nose, a typical hospital-like smell mixed with cigarette smoke from around. So heartwarming!

You enter inside and are “greeted” by a swarm of patients waiting with grim faces waiting for their turn. The receptionist lady, surprisingly, had a similar expression always. 

The clinic looked like, well, A CLINIC! Everything was plain white (somewhat off white which was strained black due to the continuous touching of dirty hands). In addition, most walls were plastered with Dental health education posters, which added to the warmth of the ambience. Oh yeah, and how could I forget the off white vertical blinds that covered the windows! They never opened; at least, that’s what I noticed in the 18 odd months I continuously visited them.

I hated going to that place. Nothing about going there was pleasant. It was a punishment, and the deal to me looked terrible- I go through this circus to reach this place for my appointment, and all I end up with is pain, painkillers and three days of “eat this, not that”. 

This is how Dentistry has been for ages, not because dentists and staff didn’t care but because they did only what they knew. A typical dentist back then couldn’t think beyond “just treating teeth”. Everything else was a frill. 

18 months passed by, and I completed my Orthodontic treatment. My teeth were near perfect, ta-da! The dentist gave me a pair of removable retainers to be worn all the time except for eating and sleep. He said coming back on follow up wasn’t needed, but I could if I felt so, and boy-o-boy, this was independence day. I could finally stop going to that place and follow my own rules (at least I felt that).

I never wore the retainers and lost them after some time. As a result, my teeth started to move back to their original places (the crowded thingy!), a phenomenon that’s called Orthodontic Relapse. 

Sadly, since I wasn’t educated about it by the dentist or their staff, I took it lightly and in a year, my teeth were all over the place, possibly worse than they were at the start of the treatment.

There I was, smart-ass, following “mah-lyf, mah-rules”- lost 2.5 Years, a shitload of money and a set of teeth that looked worse than they were earlier- a broken picket fence.

A Realisation

As I look back today, I realise that I wasn’t the only one who faced this situation. Most people had unpleasant dental experiences like me and it’s because of experiences like these that people dread going to the dentist, postpone their dental care to the moon and end up losing it big time.

Today, I realise that had my dental experiences been pleasant, I would have probably looked up to going to the dentist. I wouldn’t have missed my follow-ups, and I possibly would have followed his instructions. Possibly. 

He was a great dentist, very brisk and an expert at his work. But the problem was that I had associated a visit to him with “an extremely unpleasant experience”. 

The Idea of Heart-Centric Dentistry

My first dental experience was a total loss-loss: A loss for me and a loss for the Dentist (though I never badmouthed him, I never went back to him nor referred a friend to him). 

In 2018, I had to set up my clinic in Malviya Nagar, Jaipur and I had a choice to follow suit or do something different.

In my clinic, I wanted my patients to have Win-Win experiences. Experiences where my patients look forward to their dental care. They value what they receive, talk good about me and my services and thank me by referring friends, family and colleagues to take my services. I wanted to create an environment that alleviates anxiety and fear. An environment that empowers people, making them fearless. An environment that feels safe and comfortable.

People today are different- they want solutions to their problems and want them delivered in impeccable ways. They want the extra stuff- the convenience, speed, opportunity to smile and relax. They demand patient listening and won’t care if your next patient peeps through the door, waiting to come inside.

It’s 2021 and my clinic is now three years young. I am happy that people remember me on a positive note.

My clinic is well located, has ample parking space covered under CCTVs. 

The moment you enter inside, young-contemporary vibe grips you. That’s good enough to combat half of your dental anxiety (especially if you’re coming for your first dental appointment).

There are no patients anxiously waiting for their turns. Instead, we’ve got beautiful walls in white and wood with a green accent colour theme. It soothes your eyes and helps you relax.

The sprawling waiting room doesn’t bite you at the outset and doubles up into a comfy lounging space if needed. Our waiting room is just for the namesake; WE DON’T keep patients waiting!

There’s a great use of transparent glass partitions everywhere, no blinds. We’ve tried to make the ambience super inviting and our attitude super-positive! (We aren’t there yet, a work in progress).

The Win-Win Situation

Today, I can proudly say that doing all of this has given my clinic an entirely different taste. It doesn’t look clinicy, it is a fun place to be, and people look forward to their dental appointments (and meeting me!)

My People take their dental treatment seriously, and as a result, most of my patients maintain a healthy set of teeth and gums.

In my clinic, empathy is the main currency as I prioritise my patients and their benefits as my benefits. In addition, I focus on making the treatment delivery seamless. 

As much as the treatment quality, I ensure that the treatment delivery is equally paid attention to.

The way I deal with patients, communicate, and make them feel is all a part of my treatment.

Unlike revenue or number of patients, My business performance indicator is:

  • “Are my patients going back happy?”
  • “Do they feel cared for, and supported?”, 
  • “Are they really experiencing the heart centric and fabulous dentistry that we promised?”

So in my clinic, it’s a Win-Win. 

  • My patients experience the best of me, truly 100% heart centric dentistry + get robust solutions to their dental problems 
  • I get to do meaningful work + get paid to do that!

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