"I never had a tooth walk into my office. It was always attached to a person." L.D. Pankey
When I first heard Dr. Pankey's quote, I really took it to heart. Treat the person, you may get the opportunity to treat their teeth. In dental school, we had requirements. I needed to do 'x' amount of crowns, 'y' amount of fillings, cleanings, etc. All my efforts were to fulfill my requirements.
Once in private practice, the 'teeth requirements' became people that chose to be patients of mine. I consider it an honor to be able to provide the best care that I can to my patients. They choose me from personal referrals or a direct result of a marketing piece. They stay because they trust me and my team. In my heart, I have always wanted to get to know my patients.
In my practice, I spend a great deal of time with my new patients in consultation before we enter the clinical area. I call this the discovery meeting. It is an opportunity for us to get to know each other in a relaxed atmosphere.
It usually starts with some simple, "get-to-know-you" type questions - e.g. (What brings you in today? Do you live in the area? What do you do for work? What are your hobbies? etc.)
The conversation usually shifts into an exchange of values. I describe who I am and how I practice.
I then have a series of questions for my patient to answer regarding their dental history, their perceived state of their oral health, and what their goals are for their teeth.
Now most people don't obsess over their teeth (of course, some do!). The questions I ask are designed for the patient to start to think about potential problems- especially around the health, function and esthetics.
This leads to a discovery what the true status of their oral health. It is key that the patient begins to "discover" this themselves as we guide them along the path.
If the questions are asked correctly, the patient does most or all of the talking, I just sit there and take notes.
I am very consultative in nature and I continue to ask questions. During the exam I continue to ask relevant questions and show patients areas I have concerns with. This allows them to remain engaged in the process and they start to discover things at a deeper level.
I find that my job is to educate and offer solutions to potential or active dental problems. The patient is usually armed with enough information that they can move forward with treatment at their pace.
Occasionally (this happened recently!), from the discovery interview, we decide that it is probably not a good fit to move forward with the exam. Which is fine - If we have different values and we discover this up front, it will save all sorts of problems and animosity down the road for both of us!
I have identified the demographic that I wish to serve. I treat people that are truly concerned with their oral health and are willing to take an active role in optimizing it - Optimal dentistry specific to their goals. Sometimes this is a full mouth reconstruction, sometimes it is twice a year cleanings and check ups -Whatever is appropriate.
This has led to a satisfying practice, knowing that we are partnering with our clients helping them along the path!