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Digital photography can be a valuable resource in opening up new channels of communication with patients.
For many patients, being at the dental office is not exactly where they want to spend their free time-and for many of them, it’s always the same experience. What if you could change this for them? What if you could take the time to educate them on their oral health in a way they would understand?
As dental professionals, we often forget the patient knows nothing about dentistry and the language we speak is foreign to them. When a patient leaves the exam room to go get checked out and is told up front that they need a crown, the patient often says, “I need a crown? No one told me this. What does he need to do?” These questions might sound familiar to you.
We are responsible for their dental care and it is our duty to change the way things have been done for years and years. Ask yourself how you learn and understand. A very big part of what changed they way I help educate patients is through digital photography. After I finish taking my photos I crop and rotate them. I print them out nice and big. Upper and lower occlusal view, and teeth biting down with lips retracted. I also have them ready to view, preferably on a big-screen television connected to your computer
In a private room (some patients are embarrassed by their own photos so having a private room is important), I bring up patient’s photos and I hear this a lot: “Are those my teeth?” They literally have no idea what there teeth look like that close up. And further we have peeled the layers back for them to really see what is going on inside. I can tell you these photos will sometimes do all of the talking for you.
I don’t like to go around pointing out all of the bad stuff; no one wants to be criticized, so I let them do that. You ask questions and listen and you keep asking questions. Do you see anything that bothers you? What do you think about this old worn-out filling? How do you think your tooth cracked or chipped? How do you feel about this black filling in your tooth? Do you see this crack? This encourages them to ask more questions and opens up the floor for you to let them know what can be done to fix it.
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I have many before and after photos of patients to show them they are not alone and to also let them see what they can do to improve their dental health. I find that many patients have no idea about the options they even have to fix their teeth They have been in the crown-of-the-year club for so long they never realized they could do more than one tooth at a time. They never realized porcelain is a longer-lasting material than composite. They are guided by us, and what we tell them do.
Many dentists have approval addiction and fear if they tell the patient too much about what is actually going on with their teeth they will say no. I have found the opposite. I believe if you take the time to educate them, show them their options and help guide them they appreciate it and end up doing more dentistry. So who is the best person for this job? I think anyone in the office besides the dentist. Dentists, let’s face it: unless you have a very long-term, close, trusting relationship with your patients they tend to see dollar signs when you are speaking to them about what needs to be done. So many times you will leave the room and they will say to a team member “So, do you really think I need this done to my teeth?” Your team should be trained to talk to anyone about recommended dentistry and be comfortable educating each patient about his or her options.
One you have “co-diagnosed” with the patient, showed them before and after pictures of other patients, let them see models of actual porcelain restoration. Go into detail about their treatment plan and send them home with photos of their teeth. You can draw and write on the images to show what teeth need work. I almost always create a small PowerPoint for them to take home. Create your layout and each time you just paste the pictures in, it only takes a few minutes to show them you are different from any other office. You will see a dramatic increase in case acceptance if allowed more time to do this. I am from Seattle where a dental office is just like a Starbucks: one on every corner. Show them why you are different and why they should choose you.