Why Dentists Need to be Great Tour Guides
These words create a sense of curiosity and anticipation because they signal that a story is about to unfold, and everyone loves a story. When it comes to getting a dental exam you can be sure patients prefer a story to a recital of clinical findings, much of which may be beyond the scope of their understanding.
The story of the exam should be about taking a tour of the mouth together with you as the guide, pointing out areas of interest along the way, offering insights and inviting questions.
At Spear, we teach a four-step process for leading this tour, starting with an esthetic evaluation and discussion of appearance issues, and then moving to function, where you assess muscle issues. The next steps are structure, where you examine existing restorations and look for issues that may be developing, and finally, biology, which includes a full periodontal assessment.
I’m not going to get into the clinical details of the exam for the obvious reason that I’m not a clinician. My purpose here is to get you thinking about the value possibilities of performing an exam in this systematic way and how you can approach it in a way that truly engages the patient.
First of all, ask permission to take them on this tour to get their participation and buy-in early. Be sure to point out positive things you find along the way, not just concerns. Keep it conversational and jargon-free, and above all, invite questions at every stage. In fact, the best way of measuring your success at performing an effective exam tour is by the quality of questions you get. There is no time better spent than stopping to explain something thoroughly that the patient has asked about. Getting the right questions gives you permission to “sell.”
Remember, we’re not talking about treatment planning here. This is an expedition that you and the patient are going on together so that you both get a better understanding of the conditions and possibilities in their mouth. When you approach it this way you increase your chances of getting the patient to become genuinely interested and involved in their oral health care. When this happens patients are much more receptive to what you have to say next and you’ll find that case acceptance improves dramatically.