Probing and Your Patients
There are many systems in the dental practice, but how many people have actually thought of probing as another system in the dental practice? What is a system? According to the American Heritage Dictionary a system is, “A group of interacting elements functioning as a whole.” There are many offices that probe their patients once a year. The hygienist probes and writes down her own probings. Many professionals do not explain exactly what the probings mean, or do not probe at all.
Why do many practices not follow through with this protocol? Their mind set has been prophylaxis based instead of a diagnosis based hygiene department. Clean first, evaluate later. Barriers are erected for you and your staff that prevents you from helping your patients maximize their health. Encourage and empower your staff to achieve the desired results.
In order to truly evaluate the periodontal status of patients, it is recommended that probings be done at every professional hygiene appointment. This not only allows the hygienist and doctor to do a more complete evaluation, in order to know what treatment needs to be done at that appointment, but it also places an importance of having not only healthy teeth, but healthy gingiva.
Any time a professional takes the time to do a specific evaluation or test, it creates a greater importance and concern. Even when we go to the medical doctor, if they do an additional test we are immediately more interested in what the results are. Therefore, we as dental professionals need to place the same importance on probing as we would an MRI if we were the patients.
It is also recommended that the probings be done out loud so the patient is able to hear the measurements. However, even before doing the probings it is best to educate the patient about what exactly the probings mean, what you are going to do, and what the results mean to them. Yes, you may have explained what probings are in the past, but until the patient is actually being actively involved with every number called out, more than likely they still do not completely understand what the probings mean.
When explaining the probings to the patient, it is best to call the analysis exactly what it is, probing. Patients need to be educated on our systems and evaluations using the common terminology used in the profession, not what we may call it in our individual offices. This will help them to be able to talk to friends and family members about their individual treatment and know what was or was not done.
Many of you are saying, yes, it would be nice to do the probings out loud but my office does not have the extra team players available to help all the time. There are new computer systems that were designed to help specifically with co-diagnosis, educating the patient, and giving a good print out that the patient can take home and own their disease. When choosing what system works best for your office here are a few things to consider:
Others are saying we have never probed in the past how do we explain why we are probing now. If you are going to be using the traditional probing system or a computer probing system, explain to the patient, “Jane, there have been many recent advances in research, resulting in the development of new and exciting procedures in dentistry. One of the most beneficial procedures is the screening process called probing that enables us to detect gum disease in the earliest stages. If you have been experiencing stress or your immune system is depressed, the progression of the disease may be affected. It is our commitment to screen all our patients on a regular basis since treatment in the earliest stages is the most successful.”
This sample presentation serves as a framework that the doctor and staff can build on. It is designed so that you may find the conversation that best suits you.
Any time new technology is introduced, such as a computerized probing system, the patient will be the one asking the questions immediately.
The ability to answer patient’s questions with confidence is directly proportional to acceptance of therapy. Practice your response until you are confident in answering. The patient will perceive your confidence and treatment acceptance will increase.
Regardless of what system you use while probing, it is in the best interest of the patient and the practice that the office be committed to screening, treating, and referring out patients with periodontal disease when appropriate.
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