My wife and I recently celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary.  We met at age 16 and married at 21, so maybe I am not the one to be considered an expert on first dates. But that “first date” image is the approach I have in mind when a new patient comes to our office or when I’m first meeting a patient who has been in the office for some time.

Let’s look at both.

The first question is how do you prepare for your first date? If you are a guy, you probably shower, shave, do your hair and decide what you will wear. You also see that your car is clean and the proper arrangements have been made, usually involving a meal.  You have probably chosen a restaurant with a familiar ambience, where the food is remarkable and predictable for you to impress your date.

For a lady, there is preparation with the similar intent to impress. Both of you may have done some prior “Google” research to help with topics of conversation during the date.

I believe you should have the same thoughts when you have a first date with a new patient. Is the office neat and clean? Is that true of the entire team as well?  Does everyone in the office present themselves in a professional manner that reflects the office culture? When a patient walks in, are they “wow”-ed?

And then your new patient walks into the office. Now is the moment to make a good first impression. Welcome them into your office as you would welcome them into your home.

Body language can often speak louder than words. Use your body language to project appropriate confidence and self-assurance. Stand tall, smile, make eye contact and greet them by name with a firm handshake. Some say you have seven seconds to make a good first impression.

I do not think that a first impression is the lasting impression. First impressions are important, but they are not everything. What happens afterwards really sets the stage for long-term relationships. Getting to know the person and them knowing you is how you form opinions of each other.


“When you see a person, do you just concentrate on their looks? It’s just a first impression. Then there’s someone who doesn’t catch your eye immediately, but you talk to them and they become the most beautiful thing in the world. The greatest actors aren’t what you would call beautiful sex symbols.” – Brad Pitt


Sit face-to-face at a similar eye level and in a non-rushed environment to start to create a trusting relationship. People want to be heard, so listen with intent. Visit with them and chat. 

Ultimately, the conversation will turn to how you can help dentally, but it should not be done without starting to create a bond. People will say yes to your recommendations when they trust you.

“Trust is the glue of life.  It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”  - Stephen Covey

My associate retired recently after spending the last three years of his over-45-year career in our office. While I have met many of his patients over the three years, there are many more I have not met as their “new dentist.” I meet them at an emergency visit or more likely at a “hygiene check.” Now is my opportunity to start a relationship and gain their trust. I must make them feel welcome and assure them that we will work to earn their trust and take good care of them just like Dr. M did. 

This scenario is also true for a group practice when one doctor sees another’s patient.

Wondering how to handle the conversation when you see something intraorally that concerns you or when a patient says, “Why didn’t Dr. XXX tell me that”? Stay tuned.

Good luck on your journey.

Carl E Steinberg, DDS, MAGD, LLSR