Talking to Patients About Periodontal Disease
Most dentists and hygienists want their patients to accept their recommendations for appropriate periodontal treatment. However, it is often hard to get this done. Despite the fact that periodontal disease is one of the most common ailments affecting people in today’s world, many patients don’t know they have it! Recent estimates show that 61% of adults over age 25, and 86% of adults over age 45 have at least one periodontal disease site in their mouths. But they may not be experiencing symptoms that they recognize as being part of a disease process, or they may not be having any symptoms at all.
How can we persuade our patients to do the right thing and address their perio concerns? In a word: education. Without understanding what is going on in their mouths, most patients will typically not be moved to do anything about it. It’s up to you to provide a compelling explanation. Good health and good looks are topics that are generally effective in engaging patients. But how do you know where to begin?
One way is to use a patient centered brochure. This does not mean a generic “smiling faces” type of publication, but one that addresses the real concerns of real people. An advantage of a brochure is also the fact that they are generally inexpensive. Just be sure that any educational materials you select address patient’s real questions.
Q: What is periodontal disease?
Q: How can I tell if I have periodontal disease?
Q: Can periodontal disease cause tooth loss?
Q: Can’t I just use strong, over-the-counter mouthwashes to cure periodontal disease?
Q: If I lose my teeth due to periodontal disease, can’t I just get dentures or implants? Is treating periodontal disease worth it?
Q: What is the treatment for periodontal disease?
Patients are interested in good health and good looks. The key to helping patients accept periodontal treatment is to promote an understanding of the disease process, how it may be treated, and how investing in their periodontal health makes sense.
More answers to patient questions are found in my brochure, Periodontal Disease. What You Need to Know, available from McKenzie Management.
Carol Tekavec CDA RDH is the president of Stepping Stones to Success, and a practicing clinical hygienist. She is a consultant to the ADA Council on Dental Practice and was the insurance columnist for Dental Economics for 11 years. She is also the author of the Dental Insurance Coding Handbook and the creator of the “First Encounter™” Chart.
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