Using patient education to teach “what is” and “what can be”

July 1, 2010
As the former director of practice management at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, I thought it was incumbent upon me to make sure every dental student understood what the word doctor means.

Charles D. Samaras, DMD, FACD, FICD

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As the former director of practice management at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, I thought it was incumbent upon me to make sure every dental student understood what the word doctor means.

As doctors, we do treat and heal patients, but the actual meaning of the word “doctor” is educator. Therefore, as doctors, we must educate patients and empower them with information. This enables them to make better decisions about their oral health. With the right education, patients can take responsibility for dentitions and ownership in treatment.

The development and implementation of digital dental technology has been empowering in this regard. During the past 10 years, dentistry has embraced digital technology, such as practice-management software, digital radiography, intraoral and extraoral digital cameras, digital caries detection, and cancer screening, as well as tutorials that are a part of practice-management software.

This technology has dramatically enhanced our ability to show patients what is happening in their oral cavities. But I believe that, as doctors, our responsibility is not only to educate patients about “what is” but also to educate them about “what can be.”

While before-and-after pictures and tutorials are beneficial, nothing empowers doctors, team members, or patients more about “what is” and “what can be” than video patient education. These presentations educate patients in a variety of ways. They can be shown in any area or treatment room that has a computer screen, such as patient operatories, consult rooms, business areas, and patient reception rooms.

For example, patient education videos from CAESY run from one to three minutes and are available in English or Spanish. When a new patient calls your office for a consult about possible dental treatment, you can send them a CD containing up to 10 videos plus digital images, and some of your relevant cases.

A good patient education system uses easy-to-understand dialogue to help break down any barriers to communication. These videos are not sales presentations but rather explanations of existing conditions, treatment modalities, and possible solutions. Through these videos, patients can gain a better understanding about dental diagnosis, treatment, and postoperative care. They also will have a better understanding of the variety of treatment options.

One of the greatest obstacles to patient acceptance of dental treatment is fear of the unknown. Patient education systems help alleviate that fear by showing patients what will happen during a procedure before treatment takes place.

By providing total patient education, not only will you impress patients with your practice’s capabilities, but you will raise patients’ dental IQ. This will empower them to feel confident in making treatment decisions. Think about the possibilities that a patient education system can offer patients and your practice.

Charles D. Samaras, DMD, FACD, FICD, has practiced dentistry for more than 28 years. A graduate of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, he served as director of practice management there for nine years. Dr. Samaras is an international speaker, author, and a cofounder of 21st Century Practice Solutions. Reach him at [email protected].

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