The Positive Take For Patients
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Recently, my office added state of the art intraoral camera technology with monitors in each operatory. We can now see things magnified that we couldn't see before, and so can the patient. The downside is we have also started hearing patients say they "feel bad" about what they are seeing. For example, fractures that were not visible at their recall appointment six months ago are now glaring at them on the screen. In our enthusiasm to apply this new technology, we have unwittingly caused patients to feel defeated. That is not what we want to do at all. We want to motivate, not discourage patients. Can you help?
Dear Dr. Fred,
Thank you for your question. Yes, sometimes the view from the intraoral camera can be a bit more “reality TV” than patients are ready for. But as you and I both know, the benefits to the patient and the practice are enormous. Although the patient may not like the looks of what is “glaring” at them on the screen, it is the condition of their mouth.
And it is in seeing the fractures and the true state of their oral health that gives the patient the knowledge and the power to make educated oral health decisions – decisions they may not have been open to before now.
Consider the oncologist who must show the patient the results of a bone scan that reveals areas of cancer. The patient doesn’t want to know this information. They do not want to see the areas where cancer appears to be, but now they are empowered to discuss the best means of treatment. In your patients’ situations, they are looking at opportunities to ensure the long-term health of their mouths.
I recommend a bit more front-end education. Below is a suggested script that you can modify and tailor for your practice and your team. The key is to help patients understand what they are going to see before you place the camera in their mouth as well as how this information will benefit them…
Doctor: The intraoral camera is sort of like your opportunity to be the dentist. You get to see essentially what I see with my magnification glasses. If a tooth is causing you problems, you may be able to actually see what is causing the trouble, rather than just relying on my explanation. It helps you understand why I am making the recommendations that I am. In effect, we’re both examining, asking questions, and diagnosing what we see.
Also, the intraoral camera is like a lens into the future. Because our oral health is affected by many things, it is changing all the time. This helps us to identify together any problem areas that may have come up since your last visit and spot situations that could cause problems for you down the road. Consider it your early detection system. In the past, it was hard for patients to understand why a problem would need to be addressed until the tooth became painful or broke or other problems arose. But with the intraoral camera, we are much better equipped to identify those areas before they become major problems. And when we both have a much clearer picture of the condition of your teeth and gum tissue, we can work together to effectively address any areas of concern.
Now, when I put the camera in your mouth, you might be surprised. Anytime something is magnified, it can be a bit of a shock at first. But in clearly seeing the condition of your oral health, you can make educated decisions on how you can improve or maintain it. As I explain what we are looking at, feel free to stop me and ask any questions about what you see or any concerns that you have.
As you go through the mouth, you would phrase your observations in such a way that patients understand that this information helps them to be better prepared to make wise choices about their oral healthcare. It’s a bit like that fancy sports car. It looks great on the outside all shiny and pretty, but look a little closer and you find that there are things that will need to be addressed if you want to get many years enjoyment out of it.
I hope that is helpful, Dr. Fred. Please don’t hesitate to call me if McKenzie Management can be of further assistance. Sally
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