In my previous article I discussed how critical it is to uncover our patient’s goals and some tips for doing this. Want to know what to do next? In this article I will cover some tips on how to take that information and make your exams and treatment discussions even better, which will benefit both you and your patients.
The biggest tip I can give when it comes to the actual exam is sharing with the patient what you are looking for and what you see during the exam. The big key here is to describe what you see in lay terms such as a silver filling instead of an amalgam and the chewing surface of the tooth rather than the occlusal. While at first this takes some practice, I have found it is great at giving the patient an idea of what is going on in their mouth. This is critical since the better they understand what it going on, then they can make better choices for themselves.
The last tip I will give when it comes to the exam is that I always ask the patient for their permission to share what I see as I do the exam prior to doing so. The answer is nearly always “of course, yes” yet on occasion the answer is no. If the answer is no then this will trigger open-ended questions from me as to why they feel this way as I want them sharing ownership of their mouth.
The next critical step is to take all the information you have gathered regarding your patient’s goals and current conditions and discuss them with the patient. It worth noting that for me great photos like those discussed here are critical since I want to look at them with the patient for much of this step. I always try to start with something positive that the patient can feel good about. But if there are areas of concern that if left untreated may lead to a negative consequence or conflict with their goals then we review and discuss those.
Often times as we proceed through these areas of concern, the patient will express a desire to address things. If they do not express this desire then I ask them if they would like to address them. Once we have identified the areas that the patient would like to address then we discuss the treatment options and the likely outcomes. Once this is done and the patient has settled on the option, or options in the cases with multiple areas of concern, they would like that we present a treatment plan.
The key to not present a treatment plan until the patient has expressed what they want. You might be saying to yourself “I can’t possibly do all that stuff you have talked about during my patients first appointment.” My answer to that is you don’t have to! In fact, in many cases I do not but instead get them back for an appointment I call the Review Of Findings. Want to know more about that and how it works? Stay tuned as I will cover this as well as some more tips for all your cases in my next article.
John R. Carson, DDS, PC, Spear Visiting Faculty and Contributing Author www.johncarsondds.com