The 4 Agreements Applied to Dentistry (Part 1)- Be Impeccable with Your Word

We adhere to a Code of Professional Conduct as a member of AADOM to achieve and maintain high levels of integrity, ethical decision-making, and wise counsel by the members of AADOM. They wish to foster leaders in growth opportunities, not only in our place of employment but as respected leaders in our profession and communities. By holding everyone accountable to these standards, we enhance the dental profession’s trust for which professional privilege is founded.
In dental practices, the daily interactions between the doctor, team, patients, and vendors are professional, but are they positive? Imagine ALL of these interactions using positive language without fault, blame, or assumptions, and everyone gave their best effort. There would be a constant flow of positive energy to everyone, making the team happier and more productive. New team members sign and agree to abide by HIPAA regulations at the time of hire. Shouldn’t we ask our dental teams to follow a personal code of conduct within our offices?
There is a tool to help us get there. In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz shares a powerful personal code of conduct meant for personal freedom. How can we apply these four principles to dental teams and our patients? This 4-part series will evaluate each agreement and how to apply them.
Be Impeccable With Your Word The word impeccable is an adjective describing behavior or performance and means faultless by the highest standards. Powerful words can create or destroy yourself or others. Choosing words with intention and mindfulness supports this agreement.
Speak with Integrity. In the workplace, this means that everyone must always use mindful words. Speaking with honesty and delivering clear information is key to remaining transparent. Keep the commitments that were spoken to the team and patients.
Ways to demonstrate integrity to your patients:

Do what you say all of the time and follow up with them regarding this. This could include balances after insurance, if an alternate benefit is applied, if the plan has reached maximum or frequency limits, etc. If the insurance payment is different from the pre-determination of benefits, update the patient as to why. Do not accept responsibility for these items; rather, provide an explanation of why a balance is due.
Contact other providers to gather any information needed; this could include prior extraction dates, prior crown/bridge/denture/partial placements, prior radiographs, etc. We know what information is needed for complete claims and diagnostic records.
Provide an outline of the benefits available to them after you’ve verified benefits. Typically, the patient is provided a very condensed overview of their benefits, OR they’re given an overwhelming pamphlet or book of information that they’re unfamiliar with.

Ways to demonstrate integrity to your team:

Be trustworthy and take responsibility for your actions. Leadership starts with you! We are all capable of making mistakes, and when that happens, it’s important to own it and take whatever steps necessary to ensure that it doesn’t happen again to you or a team member. Make revisions to office policies and/or procedures if necessary.
Respecting the privacy of colleagues in private conversations. Quite simply- DON’T GOSSIP. Gossiping causes mistrust, workplace anxiety, loss of productivity, decreased morale & alienates team members.
Using honest, clear words without any fault finding or negative verbiage is a very mindful process and takes a lot of thought before words escape the mouth. Here’s an example sentence: “You should have asked the doctor/head office/CEO first before you did that!” (fault finding & negative); a mindful alternative would be, “In the future, speak with XX to avoid this situation.”
Keep your commitments to culture. Be sure to nurture a positive environment that’s inclusive to all of the team. Make time for your team to be seen and heard. Show interest in what’s going right in each department and highlight the teams’ achievements.
Praise & celebrate your team when high-quality work is performed. When teams feel appreciated & recognized, productivity increases, and morale is boosted. Celebrations come in large varieties: small gifts, luncheons, team-building events, handwritten notes, etc.…

Say only what you mean. This seems simple enough. Say ONLY what you MEAN. Simply state the truth of the matter and follow up with integrity (pre-determination updates, insurance corrections, etc.). Sometimes, we use a lot of words or phrases as conversation fillers because we aren’t getting to the point. Examples to remove from your vocabulary: Just, Sorry, But, Um, You know, Sort of, Like, Literally, Actually, Uh, Basically, etc.

Workplace Examples: When delivering treatment plans, scheduling appointments, reviewing patient costs, and outlining their insurance benefits, using the least amount of words possible is beneficial. When too many options or explanations are being processed at one time, the patients can get overwhelmed, leading to misunderstandings and confusion.
Avoid using words to speak against yourself or gossip about others. Read that again: AVOID using WORDS to speak AGAINST YOURSELF or GOSSIP ABOUT OTHERS!  
This would stop all the misunderstandings in every setting. Speak about yourself with positive language. Gossip is poison spilling out of one person and imprinting bias onto another.   
Use the power of your word to offer love, empathy, and positivity. Never use words to cause fear or pain in another. When using caring positive language and showing empathy the patient is more receptive to accepting & scheduling treatment because they feel cared for and understand the importance of completing the necessary treatment. Imagine, just for a moment, what a negative language treatment presentation could sound like with words woven in such as; “cheapest, most expensive, maybe it’s a good idea, or this is a problem.” I’m cringing while imagining this scenario. A negative verbiage presentation sends all the wrong messages.
Being IMPECCABLE with your words is a powerful reminder of the impact that language has; choose your words mindfully. They DO matter, carry energy & convey a tone of confidence and positivity. Your words should always convey the mission of your doctor and team.
In part 2, we’ll review how “Don’t Take Anything Personally” applies to the dental workplace.

About the Author
Lora Graetzer, MAADOM
Lora Graetzer, MAADOM, DISIPC, a Master and lifetime member of AADOM, is dedicated to professional education and personal growth. Outside the office, you can find her outdoors enjoying an adventurous and busy life with her husband and 2 children. She is the Vice President of BAM Leadership League, an AADOM approved DPLN, and 2023 Tier II Chapter of the Year! Check out the educational opportunities, peer connections, and fun that await you at


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