Do your dental patients see you as an alien?
Do we alienate our patients by the words we use when we speak to them about treatment needs?
In this blog I will discuss a simplified way to evaluate patients for gum disease.
Are you probing your dental patients or are you probing aliens?
Doesn’t it really depend upon how we talk to our patients?
Do your dental patients consider the dental team like a bunch of aliens?
Here is an answer: We probe aliens not our patients.
Dental professionals use a ruler to measure between the gums and teeth.
All jokes, puns and play with words aside, we must break through the language barrier and bring the “dental talk,” our words down to a place where our patients really understand what we are talking about.
We need to bring them “into the loop,” so to speak. Let’s help our patients imagine what is happening in their mouth. Let’s help them engage in the decision-making process about what they need. This is one important step to case acceptance and getting patients to return indefinitely.
Case acceptance improves when you use words that help them understand what they need. Your descriptive words will make or break the opportunity for your patients to schedule, pay and return indefinitely to your office.
Patients may tell you they understand what the word periodontal means but if you were to do a case study, you will discover patients are more likely to schedule and pay for treatment when you speak their language.
How do you get patients to own their disease?
Once you have communicated with your patient what you will be completing at today’s appointment and you have explained that you will check for oral abnormalities, show the patients your periodontal “ruler” and explain that you will measure the space between their tooth and gums.
Explain what the numbers you read on the ruler mean. It will sound something like this:
“Jodie, today we will check for oral abnormalities. I will shine this light (if using fluorescent light) and check for any abnormalities on your tongue, cheek, floor of your mouth and throat, etc. After this, I will use this ruler (show your periodontal probe so they understand what your ruler is) and check for inflammation, infection or bleeding in your gums. You will hear me call our numbers one through three and this means you have healthy gums. If you hear me call out a four, this means there is inflammation and if you hear me say a five or higher this means you have infection in your gums. Not to worry if you hear me call out a four or higher because if there is inflammation or infection, you and I will create a plan, so you have healthy gums in the future. Once I am finished calling out these numbers, I will ask you, what is the highest and what is the lowest number I called out?”
Patient Takes Ownership of Their Disease
In most situations, when the hygienist is calling out these numbers and when the patient has been told they need to listen for these number because they need to say what was the lowest and what was the highest number they heard, it creates ownership if there is inflammation and/or infection.
Most hygienists who do use this communication technique when completing a comprehensive periodontal exam (CPE) have patients who are immediately engaged in conversation about what they just heard. It really does save a lot of time explaining what is going on in your patients mouth when you educate them about what you are doing and what you want them to listen for.
It also helps to have visual aids available. If your patients do have bleeding gums, do your best to take pictures (intra-oral) of the area where there is bleeding. Same thing when you see a lot of calculus, supra-gingival. Take pictures and your patients will more easily understand what is happening in their mouth.
When patients can see what is happening and when you can break the conversation down into words they are most likely to understand, it becomes much easier for patients to want what they need.
If you have never tried this technique for communication, I invited you to try this because I am certain you will notice more patients schedule and pay for treatment. They will continue returning to your office for routine preventive care, when they take ownership of their disease.
Do you want more training to boost your patient care? What is your case acceptance? The standard is 85% of your patients scheduling for treatment after you have presented a plan for them. If you are not aware of your case acceptance percentage and/or if you want to see this percentage increase schedule a no-cost Case Acceptance Profit Session with Debbie HERE. You can also schedule 30 minutes by emailing or calling our office: Email: email@example.com or call: 949-351-8741.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS is a dental consultant, coach, speaker and author. She is also CEO of Dental Practice Solutions. Debbie is a world-class leader in creating profitable hygiene departments. She is well-known as a former clinical assistant professor at USC in Los Angeles and a former hygiene department program director. Dentistry Today recognizes Debbie as a Leader in Dental Consulting. She can be reached at (888) 816-1511. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to her website: http://www.dentalpracticesolutions.com.