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Debbie Seidel Bittke

What  Do You Think Happened When I Told My Patients They Have Periodontal Disease?

What Do You Think Happened When I Told My Patients They Have Periodontal Disease?

2/1/2016 5:35:30 PM   |   Comments: 0   |   Views: 615

Hygienists see patients daily who have perio.

What do you say when a longtime, routine hygiene patient who now has perio disease?

Are you nervous they may go to another office if you tell them things in their mouth are not status-quo today?

Will they complain because their insurance doesn't pay for the entire treatment plan?

What I told my patients

I remember years ago when I was a new hygienist and new to an office as their hygienist, the patients would call back to ask, "why did the new hygienist today tell me that I have this periodontal disease? Why now? Why didn't they tell me this before?!"

Well, lucky for me, the dentist I worked for called a meeting and we discussed it. Why was "I" - the new hygienist to the office, the one to tell the patients they had periodontal disease? Did this periodontal disease all of a sudden occur?

The answer........No!

When we talked as a team, the other hygienist said that she did not tell the patients they had perio because she felt sorry for them.

Why did she feel sorry for the patients? Her answer: She felt sorry for them because she thought their insurance would  not pay for all the necessary treatment and she thought it would be a lot of money out of their pocket to get the treatment.

Will you tell your patients the truth about what you see today?

Why do you decide to withhold the information from your patients?

Do you know your patients have periodontal disease?

Do you tell your patients they have periodontal disease?

The AAP Statistics

The American Academy of Periodontology in 2012 and a CDC study also found an even higher prevalence of periodontitis in men (56% versus 38% for women), non-Hispanic Black and Mexican-Americans (58% and nearly 67% respectively). The AAP states that over 30% of Adult Americans have periodontal disease. See The Research Click Here.

Could a few of these people in the study be patients in your dental office?

Here is how you can tell your patients they have periodontal disease without upsetting them.

10 Tips that may help your "cause":

Here are some tips to say what is really happening in their mouth without them leaving upset and going to another dental office:

1. Listen to your patients (Sit knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye)

2. Build and re-establish rapport with your patients every time they come to your office

3. "Partner" with your patients versus telling them what you "found in their mouth"

4. Explain you will be doing a few assessments to look for any "abnormalities"

5. Explain you will use a small ruler to measure around their gums

- - Tell them they will hear you call out (Have someone come to write the numbers you call out from the perio exam) numbers and 1-3 means healthy gums. Let them know that if they hear a 4 this means there is inflammation and anything 5 or higher means there is infection. And ask them to tell you the lowest and highest number they hear you call out. Use words your patients understand. Know what words they understand. Do they understand what periodontal disease is? Or would they understand better if you said "Gum Disease?"

6. When you are finished with your assessments use the intra-oral camera to take photos of what you see.

- - Show patients what you see on the x-rays and their perio chart. Use brochures, diagrams and charts to explain what you and the patient see in their mouth. Show them the intra-oral pictures you have taken

7. You and your patient;"Together," create the plan for optimal health

8. Talk about not only creating a healthy mouth, but a healthy body.

- -Share with your patients the research and science about the oral/systemic connection

9. Listen to your patients questions and make sure you break it down into the words they understand

10. Let your patients know how much you care about their total health.

What happened to the patients at my office when we partnered with them?

You probably want to know what happened to the patients at the office where I was a hygienist. Did they get angry and go to another dental office because I told them they have periodontal disease?

No, they did not leave. Well, maybe some did leave but not because I told them they had periodontal disease. People leave for other reasons not because they did not like your diagnosis. I think you understand.

Did some call back to complain about me telling them they had periodontal disease?

Not after we had a team meeting to discuss the plan.

And btw: The other hygienist????? She stopped worrying about the patient’s wallet. She stopped feeling sorry for them that they have to come back or pay money.

Our plan was that our doctor said the same thing to the patients about their perio. He supported the hygienist’s conversation to the patients about treating their disease. Some patients did question: WHY Perio Now? Our doctor talked to them and what did I do to calm the patients who came in routinely and now had perio?

After many of my patient appointments that first year as their hygienist, I began calling them back to see how they were doing after their 1st perio therapy appointment. I wrote a special note those routine patients (And I think I even wrote notes to the new patients) telling them how much I enjoy being their hygienist. I started to get to know them at a more personal level.

I showed these patients that I really care about them NOT just their teeth. I called them back to see how they were doing after their 1st perio therapy appointment. I wrote those routine patients (And I think I even wrote notes to the new patients) telling them how much I enjoy being their hygienist. I started to get to know them at a more personal level. I showed these patients that I really care about them NOT just their teeth.

We bought these beautiful note cards and I sent them to my patients. They really thought that was special to get a card from their hygienist.

No longer did patients think we were telling them they have this disease and it was only to bring more money into the office.

No, the patients felt like we cared.

After many of my patient appointments that first year as their hygienist, I began calling them back to see how they were doing after their 1st perio therapy appointment. I wrote a special note to those routine patients (And I think I even wrote notes to the new patients) telling them how much I enjoy being their hygienist. I started to get to know them on a more personal level. I showed these patients that I really care about them NOT just their teeth.

We bought these beautiful note cards and I sent them to my patients. They really thought that was special to get a card from their hygienist.

No longer did patients think we were telling them they have this disease and it was only to bring more money into the office.

No, the patients felt like we cared.

What happened to the dentist? Well, sad story but he has melanoma and had to sell the practice.

And yes, a large majority of those patients are still coming back to the office probably because the entire team (Minus me) still work at the office.

I hope this true story of my first years as a hygienist will help you in your journey telling patients the truth, telling them they have periodontal disease.

And one last thought....if your patient has an oral lesion, something suspicious inside their mouth, would you be afraid to tell them because they would get angry? What IF they did go and get a second opinion at another dental office about the bump you found today in their cheek?

Do you think they will leave forever? Probaby not. I bet they come to their office because that is where they feel comfortable, they have a relationship with all of you. And if they do go to another office, I imagine they will come back to your office.

Please do comment and tell us about your office challenge telling patients they have perio disease. What is happening in your office when you tell patients they have periodontal disease?

Be sure to check out Hygiene Empowerment. 

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ABOUT DEBBIE SEIDEL-BITTKE, RDH, BS

Debbie Seidel Bittke, RDH, BS


In 1984 Debbie Graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.

She is also a former clinical assistant from the University of Southern California and co-taught the senior dental students Practice Management course until the school went to a PBL learning format.

In 2000, she founded Dental Practice Solutions and works with dental practices world-wide to:

  • create profitable and sustainable dental hygiene departments
  • known for reactivating and retaining patients for dental practices world-wide
  • organically grow new patient numbers

Dental Practice Solutions creates:

  • sustainable dental hygiene departments throughout the world
  • a “team-driven” practice, where the employees feel like leaders vs. employees

All of this means that the doctor can come to the office to do their job as a Dentist and not worry about managing people!

 


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