By: Debra Quarles
Part 2 of 3
Each member of your team has a specific role when it comes to case acceptance:
Hygienists and assistants should provide comfort, warmth, and give information. While they cannot diagnose they certainly can educate. Providing them with standard questions that can be asked of every patient will help them find topics they can discuss prior to the doctor's exam. For example: "Are you experiencing any sensitivity anywhere in your mouth when you eat something hard or crunchy like nuts or steak?" Or: "What about the color, shape or alignment of your teeth would you like to change?" These questions can lead to conversations about what might be recommended or what types of treatment the practice offers. All of which can then be tailored to a patient's communication style.
Instead of having a private conversation where the doctor and assistant or hygienist discuss what the patient has said, have the conversation in front of the patient involving them in the process. "Mr. Gonzales, you were telling me you are having pain when you chew on the right side. We discussed how sometimes that can mean a tooth may be fracturing. We also discussed that doctor might recommend a filling or it might need a covering of some sort, like a crown." Speak to the patient and allow the doctor to overhear. This transfers the information, and if the assistant misses something important the patient will know and supply the additional information.
You may have noticed in my example above, that urgency words were used. Words such as fracturing, decaying, cracking and breaking. Keep in mind: Hoover Dam is cracked and leaks. It sounds as though the process is mostly complete. Or you could say Hoover Dam is cracking and leaking. Doesn't it sound like someone should do something quick?
It is interesting that when most dentists do a periodontal exam they start out letting the patient know they will hear some numbers – "1-3 is healthy, but if you hear 4's or higher it means that is an area of concern." By the time the periodontal exam is completed and the patient has heard 4's, 5's or 6's they are asking you what can be done. So why is the clinical exam handled differently? "Tooth number 3, broken cusp, crown." Diagnosis complete. But what did the patient hear? They heard MONEY!
Patients must own the problem for a while before you suggest a solution. So instead move through the mouth. "Upper first molar, decaying." Or "Number 3 Mod decaying." Then move on. When you've completed the arch, or quadrant if there is significant decay, sit the patient up. The patient now has had some time to own their problem. "I see you have some things going on in your mouth. May I get your permission to tell you everything I see and to give you my best recommendation?" With their permission, you are able to do a comprehensive exam – one that will be well received by the patient.
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This article was originally published by Tri-County Dental Society Bulletin