Saint Peter had a terrible cold, so he asked Jesus if he could have the day off to go to the doctor. 

Jesus said, “Sure, I’ll watch the Pearly Gates for you.” It was a slow day and at the end of the day an old man with white hair approached the gates. 

“May I enter the Kingdom of Heaven?” 

Jesus replied, “We’d love to have you, but tell me what you’ve done to earn your space here among the good?” 

“I am but a simple carpenter, however my son was very special. I raised him to be a carpenter too, but a miraculous transformation came over him and to this day 

all love him.”

Jesus smiled and jumped up, “Father!” 

The old man opened his arms, “Pinocchio!”


Never discuss controversial issues. Diversity of thought is not conducive to endearing relationships with your patients. Your position as a doctor provides a soapbox you should avoid mounting. While it may be tempting to proselytize and persuade, you will offend more than you convert. 

If a patient asks your opinion on any hot-button issue, tell them you never discuss politics or religion. Even if you know and agree with their political views, a patient in the next room (who’s vehemently opposed to your beliefs) could overhear your conversation and find a new practitioner.

Since most people will not take the advice of the last two paragraphs, they should at least be armed with the proper rules of engagement when they venture into deep waters. While it is best to avoid discussing politics and religion, if you know where and when to discuss such taboo things you can develop some strong bonds with certain patients.

The trick to where and when really comes down to with whom and what you should discuss. There is nothing more binding than to know that the other person embraces your politics or religion. There is also nothing more divisive than knowing you disagree with the other person’s politics or religion. This means you have to know what the other person believes before you speak or you will get into trouble. If you don’t know your patients, don’t get started on controversial issues.

Here is an example of how it works. Whenever you treat law enforcement people, discuss how weak we are on crime, how the cops’ hands are being tied, and how lawyers are screwing up everything. Of course when treating convicts, discuss the excesses of police brutality, how the death penalty is not a deterrent, and how mandatory sentences are just not fair to the criminal class. You get the idea.

Conversation with patients is rarely about politics and religion. More often your patients will enjoy conversation regarding everyday things you may have in common. If you treat many hunters, they will love your hunting stories and feel a particular closeness. Golf conversation is contagious between golfers. If your patient is wearing a Greenpeace button, sure, go ahead and tell them about how you bombed a fishing boat to protect the dolphins; it can’t hurt.

Most small communities are rather homogenous. Quite often, everyone in a small town belongs to the same house of worship and they maintain memberships in the same clubs. This affords you the opportunity to have common beliefs, goals, and aspirations. If you know your people, you can discuss anything as long as you agree with them.

• bruno azevedo (2024/01/16 22:07)
I agree with Dr. Fleisher\'s advice in this blog post. It\'s wise to avoid discussing sensitive topics like politics or religion, not only with patients but also with fellow dentists and endodontists. It can cost you referrals!!! Engaging in these topics can lead to disagreements and may harm the essential trust in our professional relationships. Understanding who you\'re talking to before getting into potentially controversial subjects is important. Whether it\'s a patient in my dental chair or a colleague in the clinic, knowing their views helps me steer clear of topics that might cause discomfort. Focusing on shared interests, like hobbies or local events, is a great way to build connections with patients and colleagues without the risk of clashing over personal beliefs.
• John Millar (2024/01/16 08:23)
In 2016, the political landscape was tumultuous and I discovered it was detrimental to my overall health. I often found myself at the end of the day, sitting in traffic on the 405 in Los Angeles, getting unreasonably upset and driving my blood pressure through the roof. I decided then to stick to sports. Joining the military made this commitment much easier, because, as an organization, the Navy is apolitical. As I have transitioned back to the civilian sector, I have noticed that with politically involved patients, stating my reasons for being apolitical is unacceptable to them. This blog outlines a couple tactics that I believe will strengthen my bedside manner with these patients, and the best nugget is: “The trick to where and when really comes down to with whom and what you should discuss”. I don’t have to be apolitical, but I need to understand where my patient falls on the political spectrum and find common ground, even if it means discussing bombing a fishing boat (I cracked up!). With regards to religion, even when I have a patient professing to be of my chosen faith, I have tried to refrain from religious talk. Growing up in the church, I have seen how even people of the same church can become disgruntled with one another during religious talks, so I try not to wade into those waters in the workplace.
• Karen Kimzey (2024/01/15 13:56)
100% agree - especially in the last few years, I think the topics of politics and religion should remain out of the professional environment. Along that vein, it should remain taboo for all holiday parties too. Many patients are already anxious when they\'re going to the dentist. Finding that topic of conversation that connects with them helps them relax in the chair. Hopefully, they forget they are in a dental office for a moment. One of the endodontists I shadowed had a wealth of general and trivial knowledge. He seemed to be able to connect with anyone that was in his chair. I enjoyed watching him because he was able to disarm most of his patient\'s trepidation. At the same time, when a patient was fishing for an argument about politics or religion, he seamlessly steered the talk towards something else. I have a lot to learn still.

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