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Orthodontist Takes Collaborative Approach to Keep the Rhythm Going

Sue Liebman, D.M.D. involves patients in the decision-making process. A key step to not only making them feel comfortable, but may lead to better oral health outcomes.
Ed Rabinowitz
PUBLISHED: Monday, December 3, 2018
orthodontist team patient collaboration

“The more time you take with [patients] and the more sense and sensibility you convey to them that you’re truly understanding of what their issues are, there isn’t anything that’s dismissed.” - Sue Liebman, D.M.D.
 

Not all teeth are created equal. Those are the thoughts of orthodontist Sue Liebman, D.M.D., as she explains that peoples’ teeth are like an oral fingerprint. As such, she has developed a highly collaborative approach to the oral care she provides to her patients, involving them in the decision-making process every step of the way.
 
If there were odds on what children might grow into orthodontists, Liebman of Brooklyn Heights Orthodontics, would have been a clear favorite.
 
That’s because Liebman grew up in the field. Her father became an orthodontist in the early 1960s, and could never have imagined doing anything else. He loved practicing orthodontics as well as teaching it. That love rubbed off on his daughter, who spent time at the practice since she was a child.
 
And at one point, they worked together.
 
“I think our personalities just meshed,” Liebman recalls. “There were no conflicts. There were patients who would come in and request me, and he took pride in that rather than being insulted in any way. It was really a nice collaboration, a nice partnership.”
 
Now, Liebman has taken the concept of ‘collaboration’ to a new level.
 

COLLABORATIVE APPROACH

Liebman takes a collaborative approach to her patients’ oral health. She believes there is no straight line to straight teeth, nor one approach or treatment that fits everyone. What fuels that approach, she explains, far beyond simply being a provider of information and orthodontic services.
 
“What I derive the most enjoyment from is really listening to my patients,” Liebman says. “Every patient’s mouth is unique, and their circumstances are also unique. When they come in for a consultation, it truly is a chance for me to hear what it is that’s of concern to them.”
 
So Liebman listens. And then she provides them with the information they need from a health standpoint, and from a function standpoint. She says that with all the options available in orthodontics today, the key is putting hers and the patient’s heads together to figure out what treatment options and modalities they can manage with from a lifestyle preference.
 
In effect, it truly is a collaboration between the patient and the office to determine what it is the patient wants, what they’re going to be happy with, what they’re going to be able to manage, and what they feel comfortable with.
 
“I think that’s what really makes the experience so nice for our patients” Liebman says. “It really gives us a chance to work together and get to know them and understand them, and have them be heard, and have their concerns listened to and addressed.”
 

THE CONNECTION

Involving patients in the decision-making process enables them to feel more connected, and as such, pay more attention to their oral health because they have more skin in the game. But it’s more than simply the discussion of treatment modalities that enables Liebman to develop a connection with her patients.
 
“I’m a mom,” she explains, referencing that she treats patients as young as age 7. “I’m a previous patient. I’m a worker. I’ve filled all the roles. So it does give me the ability to understand where they’re coming from, be able to communicate with them, and understand the unique challenges at any age.”
 
That’s a unique platform from which Liebman can communicate. And she uses it to foster a two-way street, where she feels there’s something she can learn from any of her patients, regardless of age. The resulting chemistry, if you will, creates a great sense of comfort and ease when patients are in the office.
 
“The more time you take with them and the more sense and sensibility you convey to them that you’re truly understanding of what their issues are, there isn’t anything that’s dismissed,” Liebman says. “I think the biggest gift I can give them is to make them feel like they are heard and listened to. And then we’ll go together and we’ll figure out a way to go through it.”
 

INTUITIVE FEELING

Liebman acknowledges there are ways to teach people to become and more empathic listeners, but for her the skill has always been intuitive. She credits the ability to putting a level of importance on what others have to say.
 
“If you value that, you’re going to want to hear their perspective,” she says. “It’s important, but it’s not anything I have to consciously work towards. It’s just a part of who I am.”
 
Communication, Liebman says, is important in every walk of life. So it’s not like she turns it on or off when she enters or leaves her practice. More so, it’s something that carries over into the office from her normal day to day.
 
“People are receptive to that,” Liebman says. “In this day and age, it may be in short supply. When people realize they can be in an office where they’re doing the best for their teeth, for their oral health, for their smiles, and actually have a caring office that listens to their concerns, I think they’re truly appreciative of it.”
 

BANGING AWAY

While it may have been preordained for Liebman to forge a career in orthodontics, she has often thought about a career in the music industry. So it wasn’t surprising when she took up the drums about a year ago.
 
Why take up one of the loudest of all instruments?
 
“It’s just the rhythm of it,” Liebman explains. “I think drums are very underestimated. They keep the music going in a way that people don’t tend to appreciate necessarily. They perpetuate the melody in music.”
 
Not unlike how Liebman works to perpetuate that collaborative feeling between herself and her patients.
 
“Seeing the transformation and the difference you make in peoples’ smiles and their overall health, and a true blossoming of their self-confidence, that is absolutely the most gratifying part of the work I do.”

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