The Set-Up: “Optimal patient care is best accomplished with a team approach. When each practitioner works within their own unique areas of expertise, the patient benefits and the doctors benefit as well. In this article, Dr. Huot draws on his experience as a restorative dentist to address the all-important periodontist/general practitioner relationship,” Dr. Peter Cabrera, Team Lead
“Optimal patient care is best accomplished with a team approach. When each practitioner works within their own unique areas of expertise, the patient benefits and the doctors benefit as well. In this article, Dr. Huot draws on his experience as a restorative dentist to address the all-important periodontist/general practitioner relationship,” Dr. Peter Cabrera, Team Lead
Today, many dental offices across the country are reporting dramatic decreases in their preventive maintenance programs-even if their patients have retained their insurance coverage. General dentists who find themselves in this situation tend to retain the patient flow in house as much as possible, as opposed to referring some of the work to periodontists they have an ongoing relationship with.
Instead of taking that course of action, a general dentist should look at the periodontist as an adjunct to case acceptance, and a helpful second opinion that may convince existing and acquired patients that both doctors have their best interest in mind.
Why it works
In tough economic times, there is ample evidence that patients put off routine periodontal maintenance work, creating instances of periodontal disease or causing flare-ups of previously maintained cases. The general dentist, when seeing these patients, will naturally get “push back.” If you have the patient’s best interest in mind, the periodontal condition presented will have to be treated and resolved before any extensive restorative treatment. The patient will perceive this preventive course of action as a sign that you truly are interested in their dental health. Beyond that, a “team” approach to dental health problems will likely convince your patients that their dental related financial decisions can still provide a win-win situation for patient and provider.
Depending on the severity of the periodontal condition, the general dentist or the periodontist can perform initial therapy such as root planing and scaling. More extensive treatment, such as osseous surgery and soft-tissue grafting, can be treatment planned, along with a restorative treatment plan that both the general dentist and the specialist develop.
Dental procedures such as implant placement still can be achieved, and the patient can be assured that the restorative portion can be delayed until finances permit full restoration. Chances are the treatment will be completed when the patient is in a better financial position, and both offices will profit for recognizing that a little lag in treatment will not affect the patient long term, but it may convince that patient to get back on a routine preventive regimen.
The goodwill gained from this approach will undoubtedly cause referrals to increase for both doctors, as patients greatly appreciate it when their dentist takes the time to recognize all the factors that go into treatment plan acceptance.
More importantly, establishing the general dentist/periodontist team concept in this patient’s mind will go a long way in re-establishing the importance of routine preventive maintenance, and is a vital tool in re-generating previous customer relationships for both practices.
Dr. Huot is the founder of Beachside Dental Consultants Inc. He has lectured at many meetings on topics such as leadership issues, assisted dental hygiene, transitioning to an insurance free practice, common sense office design, proper insurance coding, financial planning, and buying/selling dental practices. Dr. Huot serves in the USAF Reserve Dental Corps, most recently as the Commander of the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Patrick AFB, FL. A past President of the Maine Dental Association in 1994, and the 2006 President of the Atlantic Coast District Dental Association in Florida, Dr. Huot is a Fellow in the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentists, the Academy of General Dentistry, the Pierre Fauchard Academy, and is a member of the Speaking Consulting Network founded by Linda Miles. He is the ADA 17th district ADPAC board member and Treasurer, and is the military liasion to the ADA Council on Government Affairs.