Keep It Interesting for You

by Lori Garland Parker Lori Garland Parker

You’ve seen it and heard it many times… You wait in line to pay for your items in a store and you look up to find a sales associate whose eyes are glazed over and sounds like a broken record, “Did you find everything all right?” in a way that you know asking this question is required by management. Not exactly a positive or interesting experience.

I was in the check-out line the other day at Bed, Bath and Beyond getting ready to pay for a few items and noticed the person behind the counter actually sounded cheery.  Not believing my ears, I listened and watched as the clerk genuinely smiled, made eye contact and conversed with the shopper in line before me, while efficiently scanning and bagging her items.  As the customer in front of me left, and I moved into position, he said, “We sure have nice customers.”  I replied without thinking, “You started it! You were genuinely pleasant and that brings out the best in others!”  We both had huge grins on our faces and continued some light conversation.  I couldn’t believe it – I was actually enjoying my time at the cash register.   What a reminder to be sincere when interacting with our patients and parents.

Small Talk has its Benefits

In addition to a genuine smile and greeting patients using their name, asking something about them is a way to start the appointment off on a positive note.

  • “Hi Suzanne, how was your soccer game last week?”
  • “Good morning Jim, what do you think about starting ninth grade?”
  • “Hi Linda, what plans do you have during the holidays?”

Sure, it is easy to talk to patients that you know, however for those quieter patients or those who you are not so familiar with, changing your greeting can make a big difference in how you feel.  It keeps you from getting bored or feeling too repetitious.  It makes you feel good!  And when you feel good, your patients notice!

Keep it Interesting in the Chair

Once in the chair, you can even change around how you ask about their orthodontic situation.

  • “How is everything going with your braces/retainers/Invisalign trays, Mary?”
  • “How are you doing with your elastics, Pete? How many hours do you wear them each day?”
  • “Beth, have you noticed the space between your front teeth closing?”
  • “Do you have any questions for Dr. Smith today, Cindy?”
  • “I see, Karen, that we are about half way through your treatment. Let’s take a look and see how your lower teeth are lining up.”

End on a High Note

When concluding the appointment, remember the value of having that patient and parent leave on a high note.  Find something great about that patient and share it with them.  “You are doing a great job with your brushing, Tyler.  Keep up the great work!”

Even for those patients who are not exactly stellar with cooperation, share a positive intention with the parent such as, “Kimberly and I talked about how to best keep that area below the front lower brackets nice and clean.  She did a great job showing me that she knows how to do that.  I am confident that she will focus more on that area every evening and come back at her next visit with clean teeth and healthy gums!”

This may sound basic; however, keeping the zest for our chosen career includes keeping it interesting!  Having the quest for continuous learning and changing it up when appropriate can provide a motivating environment for both you and your patients.


Lori Garland Parker is a Orthodontic Clinical Consultant, working with teams to maximize their talents to achieve clinical efficiency and effectiveness, develop systems for continuity of care, and enhance communication skills with patients and parents.  She has developed several tools to promote highly skilled teams including a customizable clinical training and procedures manual, a performance review system and clinical coordinator and  train the trainer programs.  Lori can be reached at: (805) 552-9512 or

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