Eight ways to use photography

Dec. 1, 2003
At a recent seminar, a young doctor told me that using video dentistry wasn't necessary nor would it be beneficial to his patients, his practice, or his ability to deliver dentistry.

Cathy Jameson, PhD

At a recent seminar, a young doctor told me that using video dentistry wasn't necessary nor would it be beneficial to his patients, his practice, or his ability to deliver dentistry. I certainly respected his opinion, but I asked him if he would keep an open mind and discuss this with me at the completion of the course. He agreed.

This young man's practice is productive and profitable. However, he is stressed because of the numbers of patients he is seeing each day, and frustrated because his patients aren't accepting full treatment plans. I told him that statistical data on our clients who do use visual aids on a regular basis has shown that these practices increase case acceptance by an average of 10 to 25 percent! They also do so in less time and with more efficiency and effectiveness.

What follows are eight ways to educate patients more effectively so that they will see benefits of comprehensive and cosmetic dentistry. If you can gain a higher level of case acceptance, you can see fewer patients each day because you will be doing more dentistry on each of those patients.

8 ways to use photography in dentistry

1 New patient experience — Decide on a regular series of photographs of each new patient that will give you not only an advanced ability to diagnose, but also enhance your treatment-planning and case presentation. Practice doing this series of photographs to become fast and competent. Store the images in your practice-management software for future retrieval.

2 Treatment-planning — Take a "tour of the mouth" with your camera and store the images. Retrieve them while you are planning each patient's case. The quality of the diagnosis and the treatment-planning will be improved tremendously.

3 Consultation — Approximately 83 percent of a person's learning takes place visually. So, by using visual images, their understanding of what you are talking about soars. Be sure to take photographs of each completed case and obtain patients' permission to use them so that your own "before" and "after" portfolio of treatment is at your fingertips.

4 Before and after pictures — Take before and after pictures of every case. Then, when a patient is in the chair and you are describing a particular treatment recommendation, or when you are doing a full consultation, you can refer to a "similar situation."

5 Hygiene —Use photography to do the following:
• Show patients new areas of concern
• Review dentistry that was diagnosed, but left untreated
• Document evidence of periodontal disease
• Use pictures to illustrate home-care instruction that needs to be followed and show the results.

6 Dentistry diagnosed but left untreated — This is an area where you can use photography during restorative appointments, as well as in hygiene. Review, re-evaluate, and re-educate a patient on the next area of treatment to be performed. Don't "assume" that the patient is going ahead with treatment. Help your patients see the benefits of the next phase of treatment.

7 Emergencies — Using the camera, show the patient what is going on that has created the emergency situation. Then show the patient a similar situation where a person complied with your recommendations, and a second situation in which the client did not comply with your treatment plan. Allow each emergency patient to make the decision that is right for him or her.

8 Offset buyer's remorse — Patients may have second thoughts about why they invested in the treatment you have provided. They may complain about the fee. Sit down with them, listen respectfully to their concerns, and then show them what they looked like before and what they look like now. Many, if not all, feelings of "remorse" will fade.

So, how did the young doctor I talked with respond? He began to develop a strategic plan of action to integrate technology into his practice. Why? He is committed to being on — and staying on — a continuous path of improvement. He wants to continue to improve the services and the treatment possibilities that he offers, and he now realizes that visual learning will serve as an asset to this goal.

Cathy Jameson, PhD, is president of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental lecture and consulting firm. She is an adjunct faculty member of the Oklahoma University School of Dentistry and an associate professor at the NYU College of Dentistry. Her books, Great Communication = Great Production and Collect What You Produce are top sellers for PennWell Books. Contact Dr. Jameson at (580) 369-5555, or email [email protected].

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