Trust Is Essential to Helping Our Patients 

April 3, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Paul H. Henny, DDS 

Trust is commonly thought of as a firm belief in the reliability, truthfulness, and capability of another. But trust is about vulnerability . 

The more a person trusts, the more they are willing to allow themselves to be potentially hurt. They make a risks-benefit analysis, and when they feel they are ready, they decide to throw the dice.  

Conversely, when a person isn’t willing to trust, they have strategically chosen to minimize their vulnerability.  

Think about the times when you were personally unwilling to let someone into your life—when you were feeling too vulnerable. 

It’s easy for us to project our values without sensitivity to others’ often hidden concerns. When a patient says no to x-rays, to allowing us to proceed with a proper restoration, or other appropriate procedures, they don’t trust us enough right now. And when that occurs, it’s easy for us to instinctively respond by projecting our values onto the situation.  

A better strategy is to empathetically explore why a person responded to the situation the way they did—try to understand the situation from their perspective, and then focus on finding common ground in shared goals and values. Hopefully, with the right questions and empathy, we can build a bridge of trust and help our patients cross over to a place of more information on which to make the appropriate decisions for themselves. 

“No” often means “not yet,” as in “You haven’t convinced me yet that I should allow myself to be that vulnerable around you.” 

Co-Discovery requires a leap of faith on our part—a belief that most people will eventually do the right things for themselves. If we are unable to trust our patients on that level, then we’re going to struggle emotionally, demonstrate frustration, and to some extent inadvertently manipulate patients into doing what we want them to, a behavior that drives emotionally sensitive patients away. 

We need to trust our patients will make the leap as well. We need to willingly take the time and energy to continue in and trust the Co-Discovery process during which the patient starts to believe that we are the best resource to help resolve their problems and achieve their goals. When we allow our patients the time to make decisions based on what they think is in their best interest, they usually make healthy choices and appreciate the services we provide. This is how we succeed in helping them (and us) have a healthier, happier life. 

For an in-depth look at Co-Discovery and multiple essays on patient-centered dentistry, you are invited to read my recently published book: CoDiscovery: Exploring the Legacy of Robert F. Barkley, DDS, available at The Pankey Institute and on Amazon. 

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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2 Transformative Tips to Leverage Phased Therapy for Single Tooth Dentistry

April 23, 2021 Kevin Muench DMD, MAGD

One of the greatest challenges of dentistry is developing a conceptual framework for how to approach complex cases. We leave dental school bright-eyed but unfamiliar with the personal and professional tools that help us get to know patient needs and provide optimal care over a lifetime.

Phased therapy is a skill that takes time to develop but creates the mental space to build relationships and techniques simultaneously. How do you follow through on a treatment plan over the course of many years, phasing out the process to improve the patient’s experience, your experience, and their ability to afford it?

Single tooth dentistry may seem simpler than a full mouth reconstruction, but it still poses its own set of challenges. You’ll be able to gain skills without requiring patients to commit to a heavy financial burden, but you’ll still need to manage esthetics and deal with unforeseen issues with occlusion.
A dental career is one marked by introspection that necessarily leads to improved patient care as you gain greater self-knowledge alongside technical skills. Here are 2 tips you can use to develop your love of both simple and complex cases, your long-term relationships with patients, and your passion for dentistry:

1. Approach Learning as a Layered Process

It’s easy to get hung up on technical prowess and let your communication skills or personal development suffer. The mountain of knowledge that exists in dentistry is formidable, especially the way it is presented early on in our dental educations.

But you don’t have to build Rome in a day. Start with single tooth dentistry so that you have time to learn the technical and behavior skills along the way that will build your confidence to tackle bigger cases.
Longevity in a career as physically and emotionally demanding as dentistry requires that we approach learning as a layered process. Each case deepens our understanding of how to evaluate and succeed at the next one. Along the way, we can find joy in each incremental improvement.

2. Build Trust Through Patience and Demonstrable Success

Nothing works without the patient’s trust and acceptance. They will be more likely to say yes to a simpler restorative case. What you’ll find is that as they get to know you and you get to know them, their willingness to engage in future dentistry will improve.

With patience, you’ll put in the work to improve their health and esthetics. The fruits of your labor will naturally result in greater trust.

Later this year, I’ll be hosting my course “Think Global, Work Local,” at Pankey Online. During this course, I’ll dive deeper into the concepts I’ve brought up here.


I’ll be covering three cases that stood out in my career, including the details on preparations, impressions, fee presentation, treatment planning, restorative care, and case results.

I can’t wait to see you there for this opportunity to dive into a Pankey-infused approach to learning over a lifetime!

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About Author

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Kevin Muench DMD, MAGD

Dr. Muench started his private practice in February, 1988. Graduated from Boston College in 1980 with a B.S. Degree in Biology. In 1987, he graduated from New Jersey Dental School with honors and was elected into the Dental Honors Society, OKU. He received the Quintessence Operative Dentistry Award and the Dentsply Fixed Prosthodontics Award. In 1993, he received a Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry and in 2002 received a Masters in the Academy. He has completed greater than 1500 hours of continuing education since Dental School. He is an alumnus, visiting faculty, and an Advisory Board member of one of the most significant continuing education groups, The Pankey Institute. Kevin resides in his family home in Maplewood where he was born and raised. Kevin and his wife Eileen have three boys; Colin, Tommy, and Michael. They strongly believe that participation in community efforts are what make the difference in Maplewood NJ.

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