Dealing with Issues and Objections
Anyone who has worked as a dental hygienist for a few years has heard their share of reoccurring patient issues and objections. Some happen so often many of us have just grown to accept them, even while struggling to address them.
Some objections are routine:
“I can’t brush very often because I am so busy, have a new job, have to study, lost my toothbrush, have to get up early.”
Some objections are more unique:
“I couldn’t brush because I was in a golf tournament, just got a new dog, have been outside at night using my telescope.”
There may also be issues while treating patients at the chair. Some situations can put you on the defensive and really test your ability to keep calm. For example, patients with poor homecare and thick plaque often have heavy bleeding during scaling. They may say, “Of course my teeth are bleeding, you are cutting my gums with your tools!”
Some situations can make you a little frustrated. For example, if you note (as tactfully as possible) that the patient has food between his teeth, he may tell you, “Well I just had lunch and didn’t have time to brush. I knew I was coming here so I figured you could take care of it.”
It’s important to not get defensive or annoyed when responding to these issues, as it won’t make dealing with them any easier. Instead, it helps to be prepared with a “soft answer” that might provide information as well as aiding in lightening the mood. When a patient offers an excuse for not brushing, you might say, “I’m sure that has made it hard to keep a good brushing schedule. After we are done today you will have a clean slate to get a fresh start.”
When a patient says that she can’t floss because it is too hard, you might say, “Today I am going to give you some easy to use tools that you might like better than floss.” Then offer piks, floss holders, proxa-brushes or other helpers.
If a patient says the water at his house is causing heavy plaque buildup, you might say, “That is an unusual problem. I am going to give you a new soft brush and some piks to help you keep ahead of it.”
If a patient says you are cutting his mouth with your tools, give the patient a hand mirror and show the bleeding that occurs when just tracing the gum line with an explorer. Explain that removing plaque and calculus is like taking out a splinter. The tissue is sore, but will get better after the deposits are removed.
Avoid questioning or arguing about whatever comments patients are making. Getting into a confrontation or insinuating that patients don’t know what they are talking about is not helpful and will just tend to make them more resistant. Calm and professional is the way to go.
While calm and professional is our goal, some situations can really test us.
For example; I have a patient who brings her two toddler children and infant to all of her hygiene appointments. She brings the children into the treatment room and holds the infant on her lap during treatment. I know she does not have access to babysitters and I want to treat her effectively, but having two little ones in the room along with a squirmy infant on her lap makes taking care of her very difficult. Our front desk staff tries to help out with the toddlers, but the baby is another story. We want to keep her in the practice and don’t want to say that if she brings the children, we can’t see her. So, my solution is to do the best I can under rather adverse conditions.
Another patient is a businessman with a crowded daily schedule. He keeps his cell phone with him and interrupts treatment frequently to answer calls or to text. He has acknowledged that he knows the calls are disruptive, but asks that I go ahead with treatment anyway. He is a great patient and friend of the dentist. Again, my solution is to do the best I can in-between calls and texts.
One of our older patients is a world class talker. He has a million stories and wants to visit with everyone. He has something to say or explain every time I remove an instrument from his mouth. An even bigger problem is he tells jokes and spends 15 minutes getting to the punch line. My solution is a mouth prop and suction.
Dealing with patient issues is just a part of providing patient care. Striving for professionalism, while realizing that in some cases we can only do the best we can at the time, is a realistic way of dealing with most of these issues.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
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