Is your dental team happy to see you?

Wouldn’t you like to know that when your dentist or dental hygienist sees your name on the daily schedule, they are happy?  This week’s blog will lay down a few simple rules, so you know what to do to ensure good thoughts are always associated with your name.

I know what you are thinking…why do I have to be a good patient? Why can’t they worry about just pleasing me? Believe me, the largest majority of people working in the dental field do so because they really do want to help people.  You might not like what they have to do to help keep you healthy, but you know in your heart they provide an essential service for you and your family. In fact, all day long they are faced with patients who would rather be anywhere else, and are happy to say those words out loud! It can be exhausting! The job we do is not particularly glamorous, working in a small, dark area, filled with often not such nice stuff…but most of us are in this profession because we want to make a difference, not for any glory.

Now you are thinking that we are actually in this field to make money. I will tell you that this is partly true.  Everyone needs to make a living, and the care we provide can come at a great cost.  What many patients don’t know is the extraordinary cost of running a dental practice, having ALL of the necessary tools and materials and highly-trained team to provide the service we do in a manner technologically advanced enough for 2013. In fact, when faced with these costs, many dentists choose now to not open their own practices, as used to be, but work for big “dental corporations” where many dentists pool their resources to open a larger facility. I will tell you first hand…it is daunting to be a “solo practitioner” and have that expense to shoulder alone.

With these ideas in mind, let me share that I think there is actually an art to being a great dental patient. Here are my suggested rules to follow:

1 – Smile when you arrive, and say thank you when you leave. Smiling makes us happy to see you, and thank you makes us happy to see you next time.

2- When we try to confirm your appointments but cannot immediately reach you, please return the favour with a call or email.  That way, we know YOU know.  Otherwise, we will be forced to contact you repeatedly at work, home, by email, on your cell phone…you get the picture. We don’t want to bug you, we just want to be sure you remember.

3 – Schedule your appointments when you know you can be on time. If you are “only” 5 or 10 minutes late, you will then make us run 5 or 10 minutes late for the next patient, which isn’t fair to them.  It wouldn’t be fair to you either.

4 – If we do run late seeing you, assume that the other the patient before you was late arriving, or the procedure was more complicated than we expected. It happens. Know that if your treatment becomes complicated, we will still work our very best to do a great job, and take as long as necessary to do so.

5 – Don’t reschedule your appointments. We know things do come up that make it impossible to attend the appointment, but please know that in most offices that time was reserved especially for your care. Changing appointments can throw off our whole schedule for the day. This goes double for those patients who reschedule their appointments more than once. For the same appointment. We start to smile a little less when we hear your name.

6 – If you are really sick, please call us and don’t come. We don’t want to work in your mouth when extra gross things are in there. We don’t want to be sick either, and our gloves and masks can only do so much.

7 – We are so happy you arrived on time for your appointment.  We have scheduled a certain amount of time for your treatment…enough to do the work well and clean up the room for the next patient. Please do not answer your cell phone or try to send or read texts while we are providing your care.  Besides being rude, this disrupts our treatment of you, and is sure to make us 5 to 10 minutes late for our next patient. And also smile a little bit less when we hear your name.

8 – Please brush your teeth and rinse your mouth well before you sit in the chair. Especially if you just had lunch.  We can deal with a lot of gross things, believe me…but your chicken salad sandwich is one we would prefer not to. And…please don’t arrive exactly at your appointment time and tell us you now have to brush your teeth and use the washroom. This tends to lead back to the 5 or 10 minute late problem.

9 – Practice good oral hygiene all of the time.  I know, it’s annoying the way we go on and on about brushing and flossing…but that is your insurance against needing us for too much extra treatment. If we are cleaning between your teeth for you once every 3, 4, or 6 months, think for a moment about the chicken salad sandwiches you have eaten during that time.  Yes…they are still there, between your teeth. It’s like not washing under your arms but expecting deodorant to take care of the job.  Unless of course you like your bleeding gums, bad breath, bone loss and cavities. We are happy to see you as often as you like to correct the damage YOU are causing. Or…save your money and take care of yourself. Once this set of teeth is gone, the next set is plastic or metal.

10 – Pay your bill. It costs dental offices money to “collect” from you later, Some dental offices even hire a specific team member just to do this job. Where do you think the money comes from for that salary? Your fees.  If everyone paid their dentist bills on time at the time of treatment, no one would need a special person just for collections. Before you leave your house, make sure you have your check book, your credit card, and some alternate way to pay just in case there is a “mix up” of some kind with your MasterCard.

11 – Learn about your dental insurance benefits. We know they are written in “dental Greek”, and we are happy to explain your reimbursements to you…but it cannot be our responsibility to know all of the details of your particular coverage plan. Your dental insurance is a contract between you/your workplace and the insurance.  In fact, insurance companies will no longer communicate directly with the dental practices–crazy, but true.  We don’t know what percentage of benefit you have for new fillings, or dental cleanings, or braces…bring us your plan and we can help you decipher it, and then keep track of what you’ve used each year.

12 – Trust us.  This one can be hard for some patients…but I will tell you that all of the dentists that I know personally would only recommend treatment for their patients that they would do for their own families, or have done for themselves.   You might not like the suggestions we make, but really we are trying to do our best job for you, based on our individual experience, training, and skill. Isn’t this why you came in anyway? For professional advice and service?

13 – Trust us more than the Internet. You can’t believe everything you read…fluoride is good, fluoride is bad…X-rays are safe, X-rays are unsafe…red wine is good for your heart or bad for it…way too much information for a layperson to digest and make proper sense of.  Please…ask US your questions.

14 – Understand that the advice from two or three different dentists may be…different…but still not wrong. That’s because we all have different experiences, knowledge and skill of different techniques, trained by different universities. Also…don’t assume that less treatment planned is “better”; less treatment now might just ensure more and bigger (read more expensive) treatment later.

15 – Sometimes treatment just doesn’t work! Your teeth have the damage they have for a variety of reasons…most of them to do with YOU and how you have “used and abused” them. Teeth are not 100% guaranteed. What makes you think that artificial “parts” would be 100% guaranteed to work perfectly? It’s not possible. Despite doing our best, and wanting only a positive outcome, dental work sometimes fails. We feel badly about that, but we are only human…just like you.

I hope this list of suggested rules gives you some perspective on the relationship that we love to have with our patients in our practice. We hope every patient we treat in our practice stays in our practice forever, because to us they feel like family. The best way to keep family a happy unit is respectful treatment of one another. In our practice, we strive to do that by always informing you of every part of your dental condition, and by explaining how best to manage and/or maintain a healthy mouth.  Sometimes, the information we give you isn’t what you want to hear, and we get that…because we are patients, too. But we will still always be open and honest with you about what we see, because it’s our responsibility.  In return, check the above 15 rules…and give back for the best long-term relationship. Please feel free to comment below.