Without a mouth, people would not survive and yet historically speaking we are not that comfortable when it comes to dealing with our mouths. There is a massive stigma attached to dental care, regardless of how important it is. But this is slowly changing.
Doctors are now dealing with something called the modern patient. These are patients of the future who have the internet in their hands and the future in their sights.
Dentists need to change how they treat their patients
These modern patients do not have the same needs as their predecessors. They have more information and therefore require a different type of doctor.
Dental patients will even travel to another country to seek out the best and most affordable dental care possible - a trend known as dental tourism.
If dentists are going to be able to hang on to their patients, then they will need to know how these new patients think. What do these people want out of dentists? What do these people want for their health and how can dentists give it to them?
No more scolding patients
Doctors tend to scold their patients. This is a global law. Medical health professionals do this not because they dislike their patients, they do it because they truly do know better. The correct sentiment may be there, but the execution is quite off base. Modern dental patients do not want to be scolded like children.
They may not be doing things perfectly, but they do need to be told when they are doing things correctly. This is called positive reinforcement and it should be proactively brought into the dental workspace.
If a patient has been flossing, then this should be applauded. If they have actively tried to brush their teeth adequately, then this too should be mentioned. This will make patients feel supported and it may make them dread the dentist's office a little less.
Make patients feel a part of the decision-making process
Patients have not gone to medical school. They do not have the education needed to make a correct diagnosis or lay out an effective treatment plan. But it is their body. It is their health and their life. This should be reason enough to include them in the process.
Modern dental patients may not have the required information themselves, it is therefore up to the dentist to provide them with it. This includes letting patients know why a certain treatment has been prescribed.
How will this treatment plan benefit their oral and overall health? What options are open to the patients? Can they choose a different course if they are not happy with the current one?
There should be an open relationship that exists between dentist and dental patient - a relation that allows the free exchange of information, opinions, and insights.
Being proactive is key
Prevention is better than cure. This may very well be a cliché at this point, but it is slowly being taken up by patients themselves.
Medical patients, in general, do not only want to fix what has gone wrong. They also want to improve their overall health so that things do not break and fall apart in the future. In the realm of dental care, this is not restricted to teeth. This pertains to the whole mouth, including the gums, tongue, palate and mucosal glands.
A comprehensive treatment plan for modern patients should include a large preventative portion. How do you keep gums healthy? What has the tongue got to do with oral health and how should it be cared for? This information should all be delivered clearly, without judgment and not in a condescending way.