I Don’t Want X-rays!
All dental clinicians have been faced with a patient who questions or refuses radiographs. What, if anything, can we do to prevent this? What can we tell them to “convince” them they are necessary and safe? What if they are worried about insurance coverage? Should the office refuse to treat a patient who will not accept the radiographic exam?
Let’s start with a brief review of a few of the reasons radiographs are necessary:
We understand that x-rays are necessary to provide appropriate diagnosis and treatment for patients. We have to have radiographs to do our jobs!
Preventing Patients From Objecting
Following this, an oral assessment can be accomplished by the dentist. After talking with the patient and getting to know his/her concerns, the dentist can say to the assistant or hygienist, “Please take decay detecting x-rays and a view of the patient’s entire mouth for me to look at.” In this way, the patient hears the dentist ordering the x-rays, reducing or eliminating the chance that the patient will refuse them. If the patient has concerns, he/she can express them to the dentist rather than leaving the assistant or hygienist to address them.
In my experience as a clinical hygienist, when the dentist orders the x-rays, very few patients object, the schedule keeps on track, and it sets a positive rather than a negative tone to the patient’s first appointment. Additionally, current guidelines for exposing radiographs indicate that dentists should order them after evaluating a patient’s health history and a clinical exam. See “Guidelines for Prescribing Dental Radiographs” at www.ada.org. This can be interpreted as a requirement of a dentist’s exam prior to taking any x-rays.
When patients come for their recall appointments, we might say, “As Dr. Smith requested after your previous exam, I am going to take your x-rays now.” Avoid saying something like, “I’m going to take your x-rays now. Is that ok?” We don’t want to ask permission or pose a question that the patient can refuse.
“Convincing” Patients That X-rays Are Necessary And Safe
Patients May Be Worried About Insurance Coverage
Should You Treat A Patient Who Won’t Accept Radiographs?
Carol Tekavec CDA RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol is also a speaker on dental records, insurance coding and billing, patient communication and hygiene efficiency for McKenzie Management. Interested in having Carol speak to your dental society or study club? Click here
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