The Perfect New Patient Exam
Step 1 - The Introduction (10 minutes)
Keep in mind, it’s usually required by your state board that before a clinical team member can take any radiographs, they must be “prescribed” by you, the dentist. Your goal is to briefly introduce yourself to the new patient as soon as possible after your assistant has seated the patient, review the medical and dental history, and take a quick tour in the patient’s mouth to accurately prescribe the radiographs you need to make a complete diagnosis and treatment plan. Prior to your arrival, your assistant can be taking digital photos if you find them helpful, as well as intra-oral photos.
Step 2 - Radiographs (10 minutes)
Step 3 - Soft and Hard Tissue Exam (10 minutes)
Consider having the doctor and assistant chart the existing restorations together. This is much quicker for the assistant, and also gives you an opportunity to brag on the patient’s previous treatment, as well as start preparing yourself for your diagnoses and treatment planning. (#1 is missing, #2 has a beautiful porcelain crown, #3 has an old silver filling with a crack on the distal-buccal, etc.)
Step 4 - Treatment Planning (10 minutes)
Step 5 - Visit #1 (10 minutes)
In other words, eat the elephant one bite at a time to avoid your patient from running through the jungle and out the front door. Help guide them through the process, explaining that when they return for their next visit, you will discuss what area they would like to address next.
This scenario was 50 minutes. You determine how long it will take you. Keep in mind that you may have a difficult case that will need time to prepare and review with the patient. In that case, gather your information, discuss with the patient what they are expecting, and schedule them back for a consultation. Maybe it can be combined with something that is needed that is not extensive, like a filling. Don’t feel that you need to present 4 options to the patient that will take preparation and time at this appointment. It will be apparent to the patient that their dental needs are complex.
Keep in mind that the patient only really listens to the first 5 minutes of what you say, so keep it short and to the point. Ask questions to confirm that they understand their next visit. Bid them good-bye until you see them again soon. Sue reviews the recommended treatment for the next visit and then escorts the patient to the hygienist, briefly reviews with her the doctor’s findings for the next visit, indicates that there was no evidence of gum disease and dismisses herself. All in less than an hour!
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