Outstanding patient care

Sept. 1, 2001
As a dentist, my foremost commitment is to bring outstanding levels of care to all my patients.

by Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FIGD

As a dentist, my foremost commitment is to bring outstanding levels of care to all my patients. Of course, I believe that almost every dentist around the world shares this same commitment, and that this has been the case for generations of dentists before me.

Where this statement becomes interesting is that although we all may agree that providing outstanding patient care is our number one priority, we may not agree on what constitutes outstanding care. I want to share some of my insights with you.

For many of us, dentistry is a traditional profession where tools, techniques, and practices have remained largely unchanged with the passage of time. Meanwhile, technological change continues relentlessly around us, and our patients know it. I feel an incredibly strong obligation to my patients to keep abreast of new technologies, invest in new equipment, and make sure my staff and I are trained in their safe, effective use.

The world of patient care is not only about what we dentists do, know, or have. Patients have changed their expectations in the last decade. They now expect to be active participants in their own care. Utilizing new technologies allows me to provide more in-depth education, thereby developing well-informed and motivated patients. This makes my job and the jobs of my staff more rewarding and fun!

Last month, I started my discussion about digital radiography. I discussed some of the benefits, including image quality, ease of use, reduced time to diagnosis, and the possibility of increased patient education. This month, I want to extend my thoughts further, but now from the patient's perspective. I believe that digital radiography has wonderful patient-care benefits that can be too easily overlooked.

The images I included last month were actual images that I took in my practice. I display them on large monitors to patients where we can look at and discuss the diagnoses in ways that were never available before. Day in and day out, my patients are amazed and excited as I explain to them this seemingly simple, but far-reaching tool.

  • Digital X-rays reduce patient radiation exposure significantly compared to film; most of my patients respond positively to this.
  • The digital sensor we use is much more comfortable in the mouth than film, and its "cut corner" design emulates what we have been doing for years with film.
  • We use no chemicals to create X-rays, benefiting our environment.
  • The images are displayed instantly and clearly on large monitors and can be enhanced to highlight specific conditions or areas.
  • We save our patients from having to wait while films are developed, a great benefit for those of us who regularly perform implant or endodontic procedures.

When we first started using digital radiography, I quickly realized the many clinical benefits that would help me with my work. And, I observed how my staff enjoyed the system's ease of use. What used to be something of a chore overnight became a simple, cost-effective, and fun procedure.

What I could not have anticipated were the responses we received from patients. Their interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm demonstrated convincingly that I could never go back to shooting X-rays with traditional film. Yes, this is a highly effective clinical tool, but it is also an important marketing tool for my practice.

My patients love digital X-rays! They ask about them, tell their friends and family about them, and are inspired to become more involved in co-diagnosis and treatment decisions. I have no doubts that I educate my patients better than I did before and involve them more in their treatment decisions.

When all is said and done, if our patients feel better for their experience, didn't we deliver the outstanding care that was our commitment to them in the first place?

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FIGD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He also is the editor of St. Louis Dentistry Magazine and spokesman and critical-issue-response-team chairman for the Greater St. Louis Dental Society. His address on the Internet is www.dfdasmiles.com. Contact him by email at [email protected], by phone at (314) 567-5612, or by fax at (314) 567-9047.

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