March 1, 2001
by Johanna Magathan, DDS, BSc., Dip. Den. Anaesthesia
Y ou would think that success in the dental office would be related to how skilled our hands are, but most of us know this is not true. What makes a successful dental office is not only how skilled our hands are but also how well we communicate with our patients. I have been blessed with a very successful dental practice and I know that my staff has a lot to do with it.
In my practice I take care of patients with extreme dental phobias and because of this it can be difficult to establish long-term trusting relationships.
The first time I see my patients they have come because something crucial has broken or they are in pain and know I can give them a general anaesthetic for their dental care. I try to keep their interview relaxed, dicussing their need for sedation and then move on to their dental problems. I first acknowledge their fear and ask them if I may look in their mouth. Many of my patients will not allow me to use an explorer and the exam is strictly visual. From my limited exam and radiographs I usually find many broken teeth and fillings, advanced periodontal disease with five to ten years of calculus and several teeth which are abscessed, requiring either extractions or root canal therapy.
I try to soften the presentation of the treatment plan to avoid any additional stress this extensive work may cause. The hard part is deciding how to complete the most critical dental work to get patients back to basic health, while at the same time helping them to overcome their fears so they will return for further care once the basics are completed.
During the presentation of the treatment plan I must take into consideration what my patient needs dentally, the type of sedation the patient needs, and also what they can afford. As Dentists we are trained to give our patients the ideal treatment plan and let them decide what they would like done. In my practice I present to them the necessary immediate treatment to get them back to basic oral health and leave the crowns, bridges, implants and periodontal maintenance to a follow up consultation appointment.
A common misconception my patients have is that five to ten years of neglect can be fixed in one appointment. I try to explain at this time everything can’t normally be completed in one appointment; hopefully within two, but often it can be three appointments.
Now I send in my nurses! They are amazing. Nursing is the ultimate in care giving. A good nurse is very organized and has to be extremely knowledgeable about drugs, medicine, and pathology. But they must also be gentle, kind, and compassionate individuals who are good listeners. My registered nurses are amazing. They can take any nervous, uncommunicative extremely phobic person and calm them down quickly to the point of feeling trust and confidence.
By this time my staff and I have spent an hour with the patient, working to establish a trusting relationship to build the confidence needed to return for initial treatment and later for ongoing dental care on a regular basis. I have many patients who return on a regular basis after we have helped them overcome some of their fears and now only require small amounts of sedation. I enjoy treating these patients, as I know they have struggled over a very big hurdle.
Having a team that works together from the moment the patient walks through the door, communicating, listening to what they would like done, building their confidence and providing quality dental care is what really makes a successful dental practice.
I love the challenge of my work. It is our team approach to developing rewarding relationships that gives us all a great deal of inner satisfaction!