This will be a relatively short post. But, I wanted to get it out while it was fresh in my head.
This week, I had a new patient come in for a Six Month Smiles consultation. This patient was a young woman in her mid-20s. She found me via my website. Her chief concern was a rather large space between her upper central incisors. Otherwise, she had a very attractive and healthy smile.
I always ask patients about how they came to find me. She said she did a “LOT” of research on the internet. Remarkably, she also told me she had been to about 7 other offices, including orthodontists. Wow. Obviously, she hadn’t found what she was looking for. She said she got conflicting advice on whether she was a candidate for clear aligners. OK… it’s not so unusual to get various opinions. After all, the only thing two dentists can seem to agree upon is that the third dentist is an idiot. 😉
But, she said something else that struck me. She told me about a conversation with an orthodontist. She explained her chief complaint about the diastema between #’s 8 and 9. She wasn’t concerned about anything else. The orthodontist then said, “Well my issue is… blah, blah, blah…” Apparently (and not surprisingly) the orthodontist was concerned about her bite.
The orthodontist’s comment is telling about the entire profession of dentistry. He talked about HIS issues. Sure, it’s really about the patient’s CONDITION. But, when he framed it in terms of HIS “issues,” it really turned the patient off. And, I totally agree and totally get it.
I examined the patient and certainly did not disagree with previous dentist’s assessments that her occlusion was not ideal. And, she knows it. However, she’s just not concerned about it.
The REAL question is: Can we help her (with her chief complaint) without making things worse?
The answer: Absolutely.
Dentistry is rarely an all-or-nothing proposition. And, in her case, I felt we could achieve her goals without making anything worse or causing any harm.
We discussed her options (including referral to an orthodontist for comprehensive treatment as best). I explained that short term ortho would not improve her bite. I also explained that the space would be distributed distally and that we may need to do some bonding to make it look right.
The relief in her face was so evident when I actually took the time to LISTEN to her. I didn’t get any photos during this short consultation appointment. But, if she returns for treatment, I’ll be sure to document and tell the story here.
Take time to listen, fellow Dental Warriors.Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2013 The Dental Warrior®
So true Mike! Listening is the first and most important step. The first question after introducing myself is always “How can I help you today?” or something along those lines. And then I am quiet for however long it takes for them to tell their story.
Thanks for your comments, Daniel. Beyond listening, we should refrain from interjecting our own beliefs and priorities. Sure, we should exercise good professional judgement. But, if there is a way to help the patient within their own parameters, then I say, “Why not?”
I love this. I loved my dentist before moving to Houston because she listened. At the end of my visits, she would take the time to ask, “do you need anything else today?” and really listen to me. I learned so much about nutrition and oral health from our mini after-treatment sessions.
Listening to patients is the most important to all practice. This gives them importance! 🙂