One thing that it took me a while to learn as a young dentist was how to handle a patient in a new patient exam. And specifically how to not answer questions, but to ask questions.
Someone a lot more intelligent than me once said, "The most powerful word in the English language has three letters, and that is, ask." So to ask questions, to ask for information.
There's a couple of questions I love asking in the pre-clinical exam.
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One question is, "What has been your most pleasurable experience at a dentist?" And we want to listen for that, because we want to repeat that.
Another question is, "What has been your worst experience at a dental office?" Because, obviously, that's not one we'd to want to repeat.
Another question that I heard from John Cranham was, if a patient wants veneers or aesthetic dentistry, to ask and let the patient know, "Hey, I can't wait to get your teeth looking great. We have unbelievable materials now that we can make your teeth look fantastic. But let me ask you a question. Once we do, how long would you like it to last?" Now, most patients will say a lifetime or forever.
So what does that do? That allows me to now check other areas.That gives me the permission to look at the joint, look at the range of motion, to explain to a patient what I'm doing, to check out the system, so that we can make these restorations last a lifetime.
And it also gives me the permission at the consultation when I come in to say, "You know, Mrs. Jones, last visit you said you wanted your teeth to look great. I'm going to show you how we can do that, but you also said you wanted them to last a lifetime." And in order to do that, we have to--" boom, boom, boom - whatever it is you decided to do, whether it is a crown, equilibration to stabilize the function or so on. It gives you now the permission to go that next step.
And so those are the things that I'd like you to think about next time is not to answer questions but to ask questions. And think of leading questions that help a patient understand what we're trying to do as far as being more thorough than another dentist in an exam.