Educating our patients

Oct. 1, 2011
Educating patients is something that is often overlooked in our busy daily schedules.

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: educating patients, Internet, informed consent, treatment options, Dr. Jeffrey Dalin.

Educating patients is something that is often overlooked in our busy daily schedules. We often feel that we do not have the time or manpower to accomplish this task.

There are many reasons to add this valuable service to our dental office regimen. Educated patients will be more receptive to proposed dental treatment plans. There is nothing better than visual aids when trying to explain some of the wonderful things we can do for our patients. Education can also be used to satisfy informed consent requirements.

We currently use radiographs, models, pamphlets, and drawings to educate patients. Most of this takes place chairside. Dentists often provide the majority of this education. It would be more cost-efficient to delegate this to staff.

Informed consent is often overlooked or done with a signed single sheet of paper. Ideally, all treatment options should be presented, pointing out advantages and disadvantages of each. Risks, costs, and outcomes should be discussed as well. Why not try to combine education with informed consent?

Going digital with patient education should be thorough, consistent, and save time. As you will see in this column, there are numerous companies that provide this sort of product.

Here are features that can be found in many of the products:

  1. There are many different ways to deliver the educational materials. Some use a DVD format. You can play this in any operatory or in your waiting room. Some allow you to place this information on your practice website. Others allow you to use a tablet such as the iPad to bring it right to your patient. Some allow you to utilize email with their information. There are many ways to communicate with your patients.
  2. Some systems are sold as a one-time fee, while others charge additional fees for updates.
  3. Some are very procedure specific while others cover numerous areas.
  4. Some allow you to print pages from their presentations. This is helpful if you want your patients to take home some of the information you present for discussion with their family members. Some systems allow you to customize these handouts. Others allow you to print things out as a brochure.
  5. Some allow you to draw on the presentation, which can be an advantage if you want things personalized for each patient.
  6. Some integrate with your practice management systems. Others are merely freestanding products.
  7. Some automatically document when the presentations are watched by the patient. This is important if you are using this as your informed consent process.

These are all questions and features to consider when you are choosing the system that is best for you.

Here is a list of some of the companies and products that are available:

Dental Sidekick:
Curve Ed:
Practical Clinical Courses:
My Dental Hub:
Dental Health Online:

There are some great companies that sell some great products. We no longer can use the excuse that we do not have the time to educate our patients or get them to sign informed consent sheets. Patients who understand their diagnoses and treatment options will make better choices.

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He is a cofounder of the Give Kids A Smile program. Contact Dr. Dalin at [email protected].

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