By Susan Kulakowski, Director of Practice Enhancement
New patients are often introduced in dental practices via the hygiene department. Immediate needs are diagnosed quickly and presented chairside without a comprehensive examination and presentation of a custom designed treatment plan for complete care. Rather than a thorough treatment plan, needs are determined on a “per visit” basis. This “drill, fill, and bill” dentistry does not provide the practice, nor the patient a “trip-tik” roadmap for the journey to complete care and afford the patient the opportunity to accept ideal dentistry.
Although only the doctor makes diagnoses, well-trained staff members are capable of recognizing dental needs and beginning the education process that opens the door to comprehensive treatment and cosmetic smile enhancement.
With your team, develop a system to gather information about the new patient’s dental IQ, goals, concerns, desires and interest in optimal health and cosmetic dentistry. The educational process and case acceptance begins on the first contact with the practice. Have one or several team members that are good communicators become the practice’s New Patient Coordinator(s). They will gather information, begin the educational process and set the stage for case acceptance.
Often patients are more open with and comfortable sharing their concerns with a well-trained staff member. It also allows the doctor to be even more productive by dedicating the doctor’s time to the new patient experience. The doctor introduces him or herself and welcomes the patient to the practice before “passing the power” with, “Debbie, my new patient coordinator, is going to take the necessary diagnostic films and gather some very important information for me. I will be back in a few minutes to complete a thorough examination.”
This team member sits and positions herself in direct eye contact with the patient. She can ask, “Mrs. Stevens, how do you feel about keeping your natural teeth for a lifetime?” “If there were anything you could change about your smile what would it be?” She does a quick exam of the mouth and may say, “It looks as if you have some large silver fillings in your back teeth that may have outlived their usefulness, has anyone ever talked with you about crowns?” or “You have some tooth colored restorations on your front teeth that seem to be eroding and breaking down, has anyone ever discussed porcelain veneers with you?”
It’s ideal to be able to continue with, “While I am preparing your films, let me show you some videos and before and after pictures of modern advances in dentistry we are very excited about. When you meet with the doctor, feel free to discuss all concerns you have about your oral health and appearance. The doctor wants to know what you are concerned about and your personal desires. Knowing this, on top of what you may discover together during your exam, will enable the doctor to plan the best course of treatment that meets both your health needs and other personal goals, even if the complete plan is achieved in affordable phases.”