Recently I got a chance to speak with VBOSS founder Lena Stoots, who is both a company advocate and a cancer survivor. She shared with us a little bit about her experience and how dentists might best connect with cancer patients during their treatment journey.
The big question I had was whether marketers should even be reaching out to these kinds of patients, and if so how should the message be different? Obviously, they have a lot on their plate and a lot on their minds.
Lena: I think empathy and a caring attitude are certainly beneficial. As you acknowledged, cancer is an individual disease in the sense that it affects people differently. They manage it differently. There are so many types of cancer. A person might have unique dental needs depending on the kind of cancer they are facing. With regard to messaging, people want to be treated as individuals.
I also wondered if someone battling cancer even had the time or head space to think about the dentist. Brushing your teeth is important, sure, but in the big scheme of things, it is probably not someone’s first priority when they have a fight ahead of them.
Lena: Actually, your teeth are severely impacted by cancer and the various treatments. One of the first things your doctor wants you to do before you start treatment is go to the dentist. Most people don’t know that. It’s good to make sure that everything is in as good a shape as it can be with your dental health because the chemo is going to have an impact.
There’s a possibility for bleeding and infection and different things. If you do experience any of those things, you are going to want to keep your dentist in the know, because you want them to give you appropriate care for your needs.
My dentist was very careful with me after treatment. This is an important message to share with dentists because after cancer treatment you also can have pretty significant issues with your teeth. You can have problems with gums, or your teeth can loosen.
Another thing to note, from the time you start treatment, it’s probably going to be a while before you can get to the dentist again. So if there’s something that can’t wait, it makes sense to take care of it on the front end. But that’s a conversation for your oncologist too. Ideally, your oncologist and your dentist are communicating about you if the need arises.
It was interesting to learn that Lena’s doctor had actually recommended that she visit the dentist. I wondered if there were any special recommendations made or if it was simply general advice.
Lena: No, it was just more of like ‘you go ahead and get your check up and your cleaning done and any necessary procedures.’ That’s what my doctor told me. I don’t know if every doctor communicates the same message to their patients. I was fortunate I have an excellent doctor that wanted to make sure everything was good to go with me.
But it’s just a good thing to know because you really are going to need your dentist after the fact. Maybe if more dentists knew that, it could help them be a better advocate for their patients. It would certainly help them communicate more effectively to patients that they are ready to help however and whenever it is needed.
Lena was a wealth of great information. Her take that MDs and dentists should be partnering for patient health was an ah-ha moment for me. They are a team in a lot of ways and a cancer diagnosis for a mutual patent is one of them. MDs might also provide referrals if a patient did not have a dentist and needed services before the start of treatment.
Maybe there’s even an opportunity for dentists to speak on these particular topics at events and engage in a dialogue about the back and forth between the disciplines.
Hearing Lena’s story also made me think about why dentists get into the job in the first place. Most people are not in the space to get rich. They do it because they care about people’s teeth and general health. And so in terms of the approach that we’re talking about, it is not from a monetary perspective. It is to ensure that a dentist is providing appropriate care and appropriate value.
Thank you Lena for your time and your valuable perspective.