We have all heard the saying that we should not judge a book by its cover. This concept applied to dentistry is that we should not judge our patient’s ability to accept and pay for ideal dental treatment. This concept of not pre-judging was proven again just last week in my own practice.
A couple in their early 50’s came to our office for a consultation on dental implants for the husband. This is not meant to be critical, but the couple did not look like they had the resources to afford ideal care or any care, for that matter. The patient’s dental condition also showed the effects of long term neglect. He was missing quite a number of teeth and the old dental treatment he had in his mouth was failing. The condition of the remaining teeth in his mouth was very marginal.
Dr. Nielson and I have talked extensively about how important it is to not pre-judge patients and we have had a number of cases where patients have surprised us with accepting ideal care when it didn’t look like they could afford it. However, this case was different. Dr. Nielson indicated that he really had to test his resolve not to pre-judge (he is not the least bit critical by nature).
After Dr. Nielson took the necessary records and identified the areas of concern with the patient, he indicated that for much of what we do in dentistry there are a number of possible treatment options. Dr. Nielson indicated to the patient that before he presented possible solutions he wanted to know what the patient wanted. The patient indicated that he knew his mouth was a mess and he was tired of dealing with it and he wanted to know about the best possible treatment options to ‘fix things right’.
Dr. Nielson presented an ideal treatment plan which was essentially a full mouth fixed restoration with dental implants. Dr. Nielson briefly explained why he felt this was the best option and showed the patient pictures of other patients we have helped with this type of treatment. The patient scheduled for the recommended treatment and made a significant down payment (at the consultation appointment) on the total treatment plan.
This experience provided me with the title to this blog post. The most important question to ask any patient is; “Now that we have identified the concerns in your mouth, what do you want?” After you ask this question, just listen!……That can be the hardest part. Listen carefully and the patient will often give you permission to present ideal care.
The best part of this experience is helping a patient regain their dental health. By not pre-judging the patient and asking the right question, Dr. Nielson was able to determine what the patient wanted. Here’s to helping more patients enjoy ideal treatment! Keep Smiling!