Patients who are starting over

During the past year, new patients and referrals have come into my practice without knowing what I call their “diagnostic histories.

During the past year, new patients and referrals have come into my practice without knowing what I call their “diagnostic histories.” They knew they had X-rays taken “fairly recently,” but they couldn’t recall exact dates. They weren’t clear on what treatments their former dentists had recommended.

It’s not unusual for new patients to start over with other dentists. And for numerous reasons, many of these new patients are somewhat resistant to taking additional full-mouth sets of X-rays.

Some of them cite safety concerns, particularly radiation exposure. Others want us to contact their previous dentists and request that old X-rays be forwarded to our office. Still others prefer we just go ahead without taking requisite steps to ensure appropriate therapies.

Respond honestly and appropriately to these concerns. This often involves turning objections into opportunities.

While we might not want to acknowledge their concerns as legitimate, patients take them seriously. If we dismiss concerns as irrelevant or silly, we decline opportunities to educate patients about how those concerns stand in the way of their best interests. Even more important, we shirk our professional responsibility to provide the most appropriate care for our patients.

It’s our professional obligation to turn our patients’ objections into opportunities for correcting their dental health. In such cases, we become salespeople who convert our patients’ resisting appropriate treatments into reasons they should follow our recommendations.

One of the most effective tools we have is digital radiography. Let me explain how I use this indispensable technology to overcome patients’ reluctance and ensure I provide them with the care they need.

Regarding patients’ requests to have previous X-rays forwarded to us, I often ask if their previous dentists used film X-rays. Their answers usually open educational opportunities. For instance, many new patients are unaware of digital radiography technology. They don’t know there is a modern alternative to film-based dental X-rays.

I introduce them to DEXIS® digital radiography, one of the cornerstones of my practice. One of the team explains that digital radiography captures an X-ray image of their teeth, then immediately displays it on a large computer screen in the operatory. Patients are amazed at the clarity and quality of the digital X-ray image, and they understand how much more effective a diagnostic tool digital radiography is than film.

The demonstration of our office’s digital radiography capability also helps us address patients’ worries about safety issues. Many patients new to my practice are justifiably concerned about radiation exposure. Most were patients of dental practices that use film X-ray technology.

I reassure patients that the digital radiography system we use reduces their exposure to harmful radiation by as much as 90 percent compared to film. Because digital sensors are so much more responsive than film, producing a digital radiograph requires only a tiny fraction of the radiation exposure required for a film X-ray.

Demonstrating the effectiveness and safety of digital radiography overcomes any objections “play-it-by-ear” patients might have.

Digital radiography is more effective than film where diagnostic capability is concerned, and it also is one of the most effective tools I have in reassuring patients who are starting over. They know that my practice offers them the best, most effective dental care available.

Dr. Cynthia Brattesani maintains a private practice in San Francisco. She was awarded the prestigious ADA Golden Apple New Dentist Leadership Award in 1996. She is an enthusiastic member of organized dentistry, having held positions at the local, state, and national levels. You may reach her at

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