New patients join our office for a variety of reasons, and like most offices the most common request we get is to come in for a prophy. One of the things that I do many times a day is invite patients to have a comprehensive exam and create value for that process in their minds. In the last week or so I have been looking at how I do this, asking myself the question of how I could be more effective. My process has evolved over the years and is a blend of many things I have learned in courses and through the process of implementation.
Meeting every new patient begins with a conversation, whether they are on my schedule or the hygienist. I open by asking them what brought them to our office and how we can be of service. My goals in this first few minutes is to have the patient do most of the talking, listen and learn about them, and use key questions to frame the conversation around dentistry. I ask them to share what it would be important for me to know about their general health, and their dental health. This is my adaptation of a process called “Staying in The Question”, which I learned from my good friend Mary Osborne.
For a long time it felt awkward to explain the entire process, until I incorporated the approach Frank Spear teaches in Facially Generated Treatment Planning. I explain to the patient that the exam will look at four areas, esthetics, function,structure and biology. I then share the pieces of each section that we will do together, always linking it to something I heard from them and what we will learn together.
I use what I learned to create value and diagnose why each section of the process is important for them. For instance, the radiographs we take are based on this conversation and I might say something like “It sounds like making sure your mouth is healthy is very important to you, one of the ways we can verify this is through x-rays that allow me to see both the tops of the teeth to look for cavities, but also where I can see the roots of your teeth and make sure there are no infections or issues with the bone around your teeth. This would include a series of eighteen films, is that something you would be interested in doing today? I always end by asking them permission, it reaffirms that the choices are theirs, and let’s me discover places they are not yet fully aware of the value.
In looking at this process again I realize it works, and it feels comfortable for me, my team and my patients. Some new learning I will be implementing is how I can engage patients more in what we are learning during the exam. My friend Mark Kleive who practices in NC uses a form that outlines the exam, for patients to reference and I plan to implement this, so I will keep you posted.