|Dentists, you know the story: A patient comes in and you're asked to “finish” an already-begun orthodontic treatment. The mother says, “We only have four months left,” or something like that.
So, you look at the patient, wanting to please the parent, and wanting to take the case (you ARE in business to make money as well as care for patients).
Yet you think, “I have NO idea what this patient’s remaining treatment will entail - it sure looks like a lot more than four months, and I don’t know where they started.” When you look at the records the parent presents you, they are not a lot of help.
You hate to commit to anything just yet. What do you do right now, as the mother and her cute little girl are waiting to hear your response???
What you do know:
- There is a patient sitting in your chair, whose parent wants you to treat her.
- They seem nice. (If the parent seems to be unsure, unhappy, demanding or difficult, obviously you have poor or no chance at a therapeutic relationship, so don’t take the case - * see my note below.)
What you don’t know (the "Accursed Unknowns"):
- What the REAL starting point was
- How the patient's teeth have responded.
- How compliant the patient has been with plaque control, appointments and wear of appliances…
- What the mom’s expectations of you really are, so you have no idea if you can meet those expectations. (Or, if you even want to try.)
- How much treatment time truly remains, in your hands.
*Note: It’s important for you to understand, that you can ONLY do a great job for your patients if you can love them as you interact and treat them. This goes for patients AND parents. So, if the parents’ needs, personalities and expectations are not easy for you to meet and love, it will be very difficult for you to treat them.
It is best for both you and your patients and their parents, that you work to identify if the relationship can work, or if it may not. Do NOT take them on as patients if you have doubts.
So, as to transfer orthodontic patients. The typical answer by many-to-most orthodontic practitioners, to a transfer patient/parent is something along the line of “I don’t take transfer patients,” or “We’ll have to take the braces off and start over,” or “I have no idea what your previous practitioner was doing/thinking…”
Why this answer? Because of the “Accursed Unknowns” and our own "inside-the-box" thinking.
The problem with us and orthodontics is that, as engineers and artists, we get so stuck in our idea of what we've learned and what our "system" is, that we have a hard time thinking "outside our box."
The dentist's approach to orthodontics is often so formulaic that he/she never looks outside the box. Sometimes the best treatment for an orthodontic patient IS outside that box.
In my next blog, I will tell you what to do as the mother and cute girl are waiting to hear your response, to wit, how to how to take (most) transfer orthodontic patients and enjoy them; how to charge them so they don’t feel taken advantage of; and you don’t feel taken advantage of; and how to work with and communicate the unknown amount of treatment time left.
© 2017 Dr Chris Baker