A beautiful smile at 82

April 1, 2004
"Please come and meet our wonderful patient with a beautiful smile," the doctor beams. This is not an unusual request.

Annette Ashley Linder, BS, RDH

"Please come and meet our wonderful patient with a beautiful smile," the doctor beams. This is not an unusual request. Many of the dentists with whom I consult are eager and excited to "show" the results of their great work. I enjoy this opportunity to see the magic that occurs when you help an individual regain self-confidence and personal pride.

However, this particular situation was a little different. The patient was an 82-year-old woman who had been a client for 15 years. Two years ago, she decided to restore her smile. "My husband gave me this as a gift for our 50th wedding anniversary," she said. "Doctor gave me back my smile."

I commented on how lovely she looked and asked her what made her decide to proceed with restoring her smile. "Two things," she responded. "Ellen (her hygienist) told me that I had ugly teeth and they did not have to be that way." At that point, Ellen was quick to interject (with a twinkle in her eye), "I never said you had ugly teeth — I said we could give you a brighter smile!"

It was obvious that the patient's relationship with the hygienist was a very special one, built on confidence and trust. The hygienist told me that during the patient's appointments, she had shared information about the latest technology, procedures, materials, and techniques for restoring teeth and regaining beautiful smiles. Ellen has been a hygienist for almost 20 years. She told me she was really excited about dentistry now, as opposed to 20 years ago.

The patient told me she and her husband were looking through photo albums as they prepared for their 50th wedding anniversary. Her husband commented on what a beautiful and bright smile "you used to have." That bothered the patient. At her next hygiene appointment, she asked Ellen to tell her more about what could be done to restore her teeth and smile.

Her hygiene recare appointments were scheduled at four-month intervals. The quarterly appointments were what the hygienist and doctor recommended as an appropriate interval of care for her, based on her clinical and medical assessment. No, insurance did not cover the appointments, and yes, the patient paid for the extra visits because of her very positive experience with the practice and, particularly, with Ellen, her hygienist.

During the appointment, Ellen made sure CAESY patient education was running in the treatment room, so her patient could view the appropriate treatment modules, rather than watching the news or a soap opera. TV programs are what I typically see patients watching when monitors are located in the treatment rooms.

Ellen continued to answer questions for the patient during the appointment and showed her "before" and "after" photos of patients with similar treatment. The hygienist had a mini-consultation with the the doctor, giving him a heads-up about the patient's wishes. They decided to move the patient to a doctor treatment room to allow the doctor to take more time with her and not feel rushed and stressed during the "recall exam." This was not the formal consultation nor did the doctor take a lot of extra time (he had a busy schedule that day). Nevertheless, they took X-rays and study models. They also allowed additional time for conversation with an excited and skilled clinical assistant, who not only served as the doctor's right hand, but was eager to talk about the beautiful dentistry the doctor performed and how happy his patients were with their new smiles. The patient was scheduled to return with her husband for a consultation appointment. It was during the consultation that the husband decided to make the treatment a gift to his wife.

In my March column, I discussed several factors contributing to the hygienist's success in setting the stage for dental treatment. This case is a classic example of how this works. It is the result of a strong professional relationship between the doctor and the hygienist. This hygienist had the patient-education tools she needed and a strong "go ahead" from the doctor to move forward in discussions with the patient — discussions unhindered by prejudging the patient's age, pocket book, or determination.

Annette Ashley Linder, BS, RDH, is a recognized leader in the field and an award-winning speaker and consultant. Since 1989, she has presented more than 350 seminars and consulted in dental practices throughout the world. She is a featured speaker at dental meetings and provides in--office consulting services with her team of business and clinical consultants. She may be reached at her Web site at AnnetteLinder.com, via email at [email protected], or by phone at (804) 745-6015.

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