How to Integrate Mental Coaching into your Dental Practice?

In Conversation with Dr. Susanne Przybilla


  • Introducing Dr. Susanne Przybilla, the owner of a dental practice in Leverkusen.

  • Integrating mental coaching at the dental practice for patients.

  • Integrating mental coaching at the dental practice for employees.

  • Strategies to promote a positive outlook and elevate your mood.

  • The importance of mental visualization before procedures.

  • Tips for younger dentists.


Dr. Susanne Przybilla

Owner of Dental Practice and Mental Coach

Bergische Landstraße 30, 51375 Leverkusen, Deutschland

In Conversation with Dr. Susanne Przybilla


In recent years, there’s been a rising emphasis on the need for holistic wellness in dental care. That includes taking care of the patient’s mental framework and comfort while tending to their oral health. After all, one’s physical health and mental health are linked — they can’t be isolated. Dr. Susanne Przybilla, the owner of a dental practice in Leverkusen, expanded her outlook by completing several years of intensive coaching training. Now, she incorporates mental coaching strategies into her practice for her patients and staff.

Our team at Zircon Medical recently hosted Dr. Przybilla on our podcast series to discuss how a dentist can integrate mental coaching into their practice.

Introducing Dr. Susanne Przybilla, the owner of a dental practice in Leverkusen

Dr. Susanne Przybilla is the owner of a dental practice in Leverkusen, Germany, with 26+ years of experience as a dentist specializing in periodontology. In recent years, she has expanded the scope of her treatments and outlook in life by integrating mental coaching strategies into her practice, both for her patients and staff. To effectively integrate mental coaching, she has also completed several years of intensive coaching training.

Dr. Przybilla says she realized at an incredibly early age, around two and a half years of age, that she wanted to be a dentist. She credits such an early realization to her parents, both of whom are dentists with their own practice. She recalls a time when she was taken to the practice at an extremely early age, and she was utterly fascinated by everything. She recalls, in vivid detail, the experience of looking into the treatment rooms.

“I would take the opportunity when the laboratory door wasn't locked, looking through the half-open door into the treatment room to see what my mother was doing,” she says. “I only saw the chair from behind, the patient from behind. But it was very exciting. All the instruments and the noises. Yes, and then it was clear to me; that's what I want to be!” Dr. Przybilla dedicated the rest of her life to fulfilling her dream.

As she grew older, she went to the practice frequently, went through all the stages of a trainee, starting with errands, fetching patients, rinsing instruments until she was finally allowed to assist in the procedures. “I didn't just want to assist, no,” she says determinedly, “I wanted to sit on the other side. It was like a call; do it! And then I did it.” However, Dr. Przybilla’s desire to integrate mental coaching came later.

Dr. Przybilla says she had a sudden “aha” moment when she realized she had to change things professionally. She felt an urgent compulsion to change her thinking radically, so she would go under. Soon after realizing she wanted to be a mental coach, she also realized that it took a lot more than empathy to coach people — she needed training. Once she embarked on her intensive training, she says she finally felt “complete.”

Integrating mental coaching at the dental practice for patients

Dr. Przybilla says integrating mental coaching into the dental practice is all about having empathy for your patients. When she steps into the treatment room, she asks her patients, “how are you?” That’s a fairly stock question that most dentists ask, and most patients give the typically stock response, “I’m fine, thank you.” While most dentists leave it at that, Dr. Przybilla digs deeper and asks what they mean by “fine” or “good.” 

Once the patient sees that Dr. Przybilla’s interest in their wellness is genuine, they might give a more honest answer. They may open up about their struggles or hint at them, creating an open atmosphere conducive to mental coaching. Dr. Przybilla often asks her patients what they want — not from the treatment but from life in general. She patiently listens as they talk about the things buzzing in their heads. 

Dr. Przybilla says patients are often stuck in cycles of negative thoughts, focusing entirely on the things that depress, frustrate, or annoy them. However, when she asks them what they want, they start thinking of solutions, which changes their general outlook. Of course, this doesn’t happen in a few minutes but gradually over the entire appointment. Sometimes, the patient may also request an appointment after office hours to continue the coaching.

Integrating mental coaching at the dental practice for employees

Dr. Przybilla also has rituals in place to help her patients. She and her girls (as she lovingly calls her employees) usually arrive at the office relatively early, by around 7 in the morning. They enter her office, drink coffee, and have a conversation. During the conversation, Dr. Przybilla asks them about their day, evening, or lives in general, and they sometimes reveal what’s bothering them, paving the way for a little coaching.

After the conversations, they discuss their upcoming patients and appointments. They discuss how they feel about their patients, making an active effort to think positively about all of them. If one of the office girls isn’t thrilled about one of the patients, Dr. Przybilla asks them to focus on just one positive thought or quality. And that completely transforms the relationship between the patient and her employees.

Dr. Przybilla says positive thinking is crucial for everyone. If she doesn’t impress upon her employees the need to think positively, then the patient would eventually feel the tension, even if it’s not acknowledged. “Especially for us as dentists,” she says, “it’s so important that patients feel accepted, respected, and welcomed even with their smallest concerns. But if my girls are not in that mood, it spreads to the patient, and the whole mood is not good.”

Strategies to promote a positive outlook and elevate your mood

Dr. Przybilla says most people think consciously, and they’re constantly preoccupied with thoughts. In most cases, we don’t control our thoughts so much as they control us. But if you think consciously and make an active effort to control your thoughts, especially early in the morning, you can have a great day. You have to consciously tell yourself the day is good to be great, and those thoughts will manifest outwards.

However, Dr. Przybilla is also honest about the fact that it doesn’t always work, and controlling one’s thoughts constantly requires effort. But she’s still amazed by the results. “We often get into stressful situations,” she says. “Even if we don’t say it, our tone towards the staff may become a little harsher, which, in turn, is transferred to the patients.” As the negativity transfers to the patients, they may think something is wrong and become restless.

At that point, Dr. Przybilla says she makes a “cut.” If the situation is getting difficult or overwhelming, she asks everyone, including the patient, to take a deep breath in and out. After a few breaths, everyone feels relaxed, and they can proceed calmly. She says this simple act transforms the situation, which wouldn’t be possible if you didn’t take yourself out of the stressful situation. It also makes the patient feel a lot lighter.

The importance of mental visualization before procedures

Dr. Przybilla also emphasizes the importance of mental visualization to prepare for complex procedures. If she has a challenging procedure coming up, she goes through all the steps in her mind, usually while lying in bed in the evening. This trains the brain for the procedure. However, she says this is a common strategy that most dentists and healthcare professionals use to prepare themselves.

Dr. Przybilla often prepares herself while performing routine tasks, such as walking the dog early in the morning or late in the evening. She takes about a quarter of an hour to walk the dog, and during that period, she also prepares herself for procedures. So she doesn’t have to carve out extra time to prepare herself. Sometimes, she takes three extra minutes before seeing her patients to visualize the upcoming procedure. 

Tips for younger dentists

Dr. Przybilla encourages younger dentists to look inwards and determine who they are and what they want from life. She says it’s important to look at the bigger picture — do you want to be in private practice or group practice? She also believes it’s important to admit when things don’t work out because “mistakes” aren’t really mistakes but growth opportunities. If you don’t make any mistakes, you don’t grow further.

When asked about her goals for the future, Dr. Przybilla says she’d love to expand her coaching and take it offline — she’s eager to start interacting in person instead of virtually. You can find Dr. Przybilla at her dental practice at Bergische Landstraße 30, Leverkusen, explore her website, or follow her on LinkedIn. You can also listen to her in our Zircon Medical podcast or continue reading for a detailed article on ensuring your dental team’s mental wellness.

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Tips to Ensure Your Dental Team’s Mental Wellness

An independent article by the Zircon Medical Team

If the past year living under a global pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s the need for mental wellness in all walks of life, including one’s professional life. Dental practices worldwide are finding new means of supporting their employees and team’s mental health and wellness. However, this should continue long after the pandemic is resolved and life returns to normal. After all, even the most diligent and hard-working employees are, above all things, human.

This article provides some tips on ensuring and supporting your dental team’s mental wellness and health.

1. Understand and deal with each team member’s individual anxieties

A dental team consists of numerous individuals, such as practice managers, head nurses, dental assistants, receptionists, and more. While everyone struggles with universal human anxieties related to relationships, future prospects, etc., they may also experience anxieties related to their specific roles. They may have concerns about the duties bestowed on them, job security, the possibility of pay cuts, and other factors. It’s important to understand everyone’s individual and collective anxieties to address them systematically.

The following are some tips to reduce the dental team’s anxieties and concerns: 

  • Maintain complete transparency during communications to minimize uncertainties.

  • Without overpromising, give factual assurances to your team members.

  • Maintain regular contact with the entire team.

  • Encourage your team members to air their grievances and offer suggestions.

  • Create a buddy system wherein different groups of individuals are responsible for ensuring each other’s wellness with complete confidence.

2. Hold informal meetings to understand your team member’s concerns

Sometimes, a casual chat over coffee can be far more useful than a formal meeting. Your team members are far more likely to open up about their internal struggles if they see you as a friend. You can make a ritual of enjoying coffee and conversations with your team for about 15 to 30 minutes either before opening the dental clinic or at the end of the day… or even both.

This gives everyone the space to chat informally and open up about their struggles. It’s also important to ensure that everyone feels comfortable talking about their problems without fear of censure or judgment. Not only does it give you the information necessary to look after their wellness, but it also lets them purge their negative emotions and anxieties, which, in turn, helps them work more positively.

Also Read: 5 Tips to Improve Communication with Your Dental Team

3. Make space for mental health issues

It’s important to validate, acknowledge, and make space for team members dealing with mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. You can develop an open culture to encourage your team members to speak to each other or you in confidence. It’s also important to help your team members educate themselves by giving them the tools and resources to understand mental health symptoms. Regular staff surveys can also help you track your team members’ mental wellness.

While making space to acknowledge mental health issues, it’s also important to emphasize privacy. Despite an open culture, some employees may feel uncomfortable discussing their private struggles or mental health problems. As such, you should let them know that you’re available for one-on-one and confidential conversations as well. Reassure them that their privacy is of the utmost importance. And if they’re open to it, you can also help them seek professional help from mental health experts.

Finally, all the tips mentioned above come down to the need for active empathy. The best way to ensure your team’s wellness is by regularly checking on them, leaving space for open communication, and giving them the tools necessary to voice their grievances and concerns. With that, you can ensure your team’s overall wellness.

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