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Implementing the Complete Exam in your practice

So I want to talk today about a few ways that you can introduce patients into the complete exam in your practice. In our practice, we primarily have three doors that the patients can enter through.

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New Patient Exam Procedure

Some new patients call and they're ready to go, and we train the front-office person to talk with them about our complete exam process.

The patient on the phone may have some specific concerns that they want to see the doctor about, and so we schedule them initially, as their first visit, to come in and do the complete exam. And we actually have made a handout, a one-page handout that we'll put up on the screen for you shortly, that talks about all the things that we check at that complete exam.

And we liken it to a physical exam that they would have with their physician that helps them to kind of understand the amount of time that we're going to spend to go through this complete exam.

You do have some patients that call that aren't really ready to commit, maybe financially, to a complete exam, or to the amount of time, or even to the practice yet, so we offer them a short visit, about 20, 30 minutes, for a complimentary consultation or a quick-look visit.

And we go through their preclinical interview process, just like we teach you at The Academy, as if we were going to take them through the complete exam. And then actually have them back in the operatory to take a couple of photographs, and we're able, then, to show them some of the things that we might be seeing in their mouth that are concerns.

We can show them things like wear, migration, mobility, broken teeth, old silver fillings where they're very large, where the teeth are weakened. And if they can see what we're seeing, then it gives us the opportunity to give them that handout and tell them that we'd like to have them back to spend a little more time with them and be able to give them a really thorough physical, and go through and make some notes, and be able to come back and make some good recommendations for their treatment and their care.

The third door in our practice that some new patients come through is the visit with the hygienist.

They may be new to town and very conscientious about staying on track with their six-month hygiene visits, so they want to come in for a cleaning and checkup. And we take that opportunity, then, in the hygiene operatory to talk to them about the fact that we would like to invite them back, since they're a new patient in our practice, to do a really thorough exam. Again, likening it to the annual physical that they have in their doctor's office. And we give them the handout and explain all the different things that we're going to be checking for them, like the oral cancer exam, checking their joints, and their bite, and the health of each individual tooth. And that's a couple of ways that you can introduce new patients into the complete exam in your practice.

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Dr. Angela Gribble Hedlund is a senior faculty member. She has practiced dentistry in Atlanta since 1994 and lectures on esthetic dentistry. She has received her Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry; this is an honor held by fewer than 2% of dentists in the country.