Biting Your Tongue: Controversial Topics in the Chair

Have you had enough already? You know, of this amazing election year? If you are like me, November 8th can’t come soon enough. The news, casual conversation with friends and your Facebook feed has been taken over with reasons why you should be with her or why we need to make America great again. But what happens when a controversial topic like our Presidential candidates find its way off your Facebook feed and into your dental chair?

I recently had an experience with a patient who I have gotten along with very well. That was until politics were brought up between my patient and my dental assistant. And like the three Presidential debates, the conversation that happened in front of me became less about the issues and more about the personal attacks. As much as I wanted to inject my two cents, it took everything I to bite my tongue. After hearing this conversation take place, it was clear that my patient and I had differing political stances. I will admit, I was angered a bit, at first. But I kept my composure and treated the patient as I would any of my other patients. 

Some say that dentistry is 85% interpersonal skill and 15% clinical skills. And as a new dentist, I’m starting to wonder if they are right. While this first year has brought forth many clinical obstacles, similarly I have had to learn more than ever how to properly engage with patients. 

It is fine to not have the best chair-side disposition in school, because we can just blame it on our lack of experience. But in the real world, there are no excuses. Not only does your livelihood depends on you ability to relate with your patients, but also your reputation and your morals.

Controversial topics in a professional setting can often draw lines in the sand. More importantly, the way you treat your patients could be affected by the way you personally feel about them. This is a very dangerous road to travel, and in fact should be stopped from the start. Some say that there is room for educated discourse, but to me, that is a fine line. With the stakes so high in this Presidential election, I’m willing to keep conversation with my patients light and professional. 

If you’ve been in a similar situation or have any advice on how to approach these situations, please share in the comments below. And as a side note, don’t forget to vote on NOVEMBER 8th! Sure, the Presidential race is a very important one, but there are also several local and state candidates who will need your vote and important ballots questions like Proposition 61 in California and Question 4 in Massachusetts!

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