"If you want to persuade people, show the immediate value and relevance of what you're saying in terms of meeting their needs and desires." Herb Cohen
" Mr. Brown's pocket depths have not improved and I found a 6mm at the distal of 31. I want to try an antimicrobial but he does not want to spend the money. He refuses to be referred to the periodontist at this time. What is wrong with this guy? Why doesn't he see the need to keep his teeth?" Jane Hygienist
Patient non-compliance to home care is nothing new in the field of dentistry. The approach to each patient has to be customized to our perception of the values, needs and desires of each patient. Compliance to oral hygiene instruction is an indicator that the patient wants to keep his teeth and values the practice's information as a means of accomplishing this goal. If a patient is not compliant to good oral home care, this is an indicator that he probably won't spend anymore than necessary to repair or restore his teeth should the necessity arise. No, we cannot force our patients to take care of their teeth anymore than we can force them to accept a treatment plan. We can keep searching for answers to get our patients to say, "yes" to treatment that we as dental health care providers deem necessary.
According to an article entitled TIPS TO IMPROVE PATIENT COMPLIANCE from NADA, The Explorer, July 2005, the following are some suggestions to get patients to accept treatment recommendations.
- Listen to patients about their wants and needs. Determine first what is on the patient's mind.
- When a patient questions treatment compliance or seems resistant, present evidence based research information using an approach such as "We know that__".
- Use before and after photos as case presentations.
- When in doubt, simplify instructions. Steps to care that seem overly complicated overwhelm some patients.
- Be upbeat, energized and enthusiastic about the proposed care. It rubs off.
- Always show respect. Don't talk down or patronize . Educate at the individuals level of understanding.
- Provide plenty of printed material to support your findings and be generous with the tools to get the job done such as toothbrushes, floss holders, proxy brushes, electric brushes, fluoride rinses, and instructional sheets.
- Be empathetic toward your patient. There may be something going on in their life that they feel gives them a reason to neglect their own health. Be sensitive to personal information communicated during dental visits. Write notes on a separate sheet of paper so that you can ask them how things are at the next visit.
- Always allow time to answer questions . Encourage questions. I sometimes say, "There are no dumb questions."
Communication skills are the key. For more information about how to improve your interaction skills with patients and fellow team members, contact me at The Center for Dental Career Development for customized training to meet your individual practice needs.