Creating the Ultimate Doctor-Hygiene Patient Exam

By Karen Davis, RDH, BSDH

Dental Clinic. The dentist explaining to his young patient how t

It seems as though the examination portion of the hygiene visit often lends itself to increased stress, but it doesn’t have to. Creating an ultimate experience is realistic and implementation of these tips will assist.

1.  Let go of the idea that a prophylaxis appointment is all the patient needs!

In practice after practice, dental hygienists are desperately attempting to educate the patient, change behavior, scale all calculus, remove all stain and plaque, perform and record periodontal evaluations, update radiographs, apply fluoride, identify restorative concerns, and so on, all in ONE appointment that lasts 45 – 60 minutes, IF you get started on time!  Sound impossible?  It is. The American Dental Association has done a great job defining the difference between a prophylaxis, scaling and root planing, and periodontal maintenance.  Early in the appointment, if data collected reveals a periodontal diagnosis, it is easy to determine which patients need additional therapy and which patients need preventive care.

2.  Don’t wait until the last five minutes of the appointment to have the exam

In most busy dental practices, waiting until the hygienist is completely finished before notifying the doctor for an exam is almost a guarantee of running behind. Notifying the doctor once data has been collected and potential treatment discussed enables the dentist to look for a natural break in a procedure, interrupt the hygienist during his or her treatment, perform the examination, then both return to completion of their treatments.

3. Use visuals to replace wordy descriptions

Patients will understand and retain information significantly better if audible and visual learning takes place together.  Instead of us doing all of the talking (while working on the patient with sharp instruments) clinicians should intentionally let  “pictures speak 1000 words”.  Intraoral pictures, before and after pictures, educational pamphlets, radiographic pictures, periodontal records, Caesy ®, etc., all assist in the co-discovery process necessary for patients to really understand and desire what we recommend.

4.  Sit the patient upright for communication

Contrary to how most of us commonly communicate with patients in the treatment room, if we are willing to pause, sit the patient upright to describe conditions and discuss possible treatment, we find we actually have to say less, because the patient’s ability to hear and retain information is significantly greater with the use of good eye contact and body positioning.  Sitting the patient upright also allows the patient to feel more comfortable and ask questions and enables us to become the listener. Most patients will not proceed with treatment until their questions have been answered!

5.  Ask for a commitment to treatment

In the treatment room, where value is created and treatment recommendations are made, prior to handing the patient off to an administrator, clinicians need to ask a closing question such as, “So, James are you ready to get started?” Even when the product we are “selling” is optimal oral health, asking the patient to make a commitment fosters ownership of their health.

 

Davis

Ms. Davis is founder of Cutting Edge Concepts®. She is an international speaker and practices dental hygiene in Dallas, Texas. She has served on numerous advisory boards, is considered a key opinion leader to many corporations in the profession and is recognized by Dentistry Today as a “Top Clinician in Continuing Education”.  She is an accomplished author related to her passion of practicing on the cutting edge of the profession. Ms. Davis is a member of the American Academy of Oral & Systemic Health and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

 

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