As a dental professional, I have a responsibility to my patients to treat them with respect and courtesy. Both my boss (the dentist) and I try to stay on time and provide quality dental treatment to everyone who comes into our office for dental care. There are situations, however, that make it difficult to provide the level of care each patient deserves. Here are some tips that you, as a patient, can do to ensure your appointment goes smoothly and quickly.
#1 – Be on time.
The most common reason that we get behind schedule in my dental office is because someone shows up late. Our schedule is tight; we schedule prophy (cleaning) patients at 45-minute intervals, which is just the amount of time we need. If a patient comes in 15 minutes late, we will continue to run 15 minutes late for the remainder of the morning or afternoon. If a patient is on time, but is a more difficult cleaning than I can finish in 45 minutes, I will reschedule them for another full 45 minute appointment so others aren’t inconvenienced. If a patient is more than 15 minutes late, I will usually reschedule them. Patients who are new to an office should come in at least 15 minutes before the appointment time. Many offices will charge a broken appointment fee if a patient shows up late.
#2 – Call at least 24 hours in advance for cancellation.
Most offices charge a broken appointment fee if a patient does not call at least 24 hours in advance to inform us of a cancellation. Insurance will not cover this fee, and patients often are upset about it. In the office where I work, we only charge this fee to patients who are habitual no-shows. The reason for the fee is because, when a patient doesn’t show, the chair is empty, no revenue is coming in, and the employee is getting paid for sitting around. With a call 24 hours in advance, we have the opportunity to fill the slot and maintain our production. Most patients would be upset if they took off work, came in for dental work, and the dentist wasn’t there. Please be courteous and give your dentist 24 hours notice. (We do, however, understand if a true emergency occurs at the time of your appointment. Please just call the office as soon as possible to explain the situation.
#3 – Reschedule if you are sick.
Viruses and bacteria area easily transmitted in the dental office. We are working inside your mouth, and the handpiece (drill) and other instruments spread the microorganisms in the air and throughout the office. Most patients believe that, because we wear masks, we cannot catch their illness. This is not true, however. We recommend that patients with colds, infections, and contagious lesions such as cold sores reschedule to a time when they are no longer infectious.
#4 – Allow at least yearly exam and x-rays.
X-rays are not what they used to be. Advances in film sensitivity and x-ray units have brought radiation exposure down significantly. Offices using digital x-rays with computer sensors decrease it even more. Many problems, including some types of decay and gum problems cannot be diagnosed without x-rays. It is important that dentists be able to properly diagnose any problems when treatment options are simpler and less expensive. Putting off treatment or diagnosis can mean visits to specialists and enduring more time in the dental office and costlier treatment with fewer options.
#5 – Keep up with home care.
One of the most frustrating aspects of working in a dental office is trying to help those who will not help themselves. Poor home care can lead to periodontal (gum) disease and tooth loss. Bleeding gums upon brushing or flossing is a sign of gum disease. Patients should come in regularly and make every attempt to follow the advice of their dentist and dental hygienist. Patients who feel that they do not have a good understanding of what they should be doing or what they need to improve on should ask specific questions that will allow the dentist or dental hygienist to give more specific instructions for the patient to improve his home care.
#6 – Hire a babysitter.
It is impossible for parents to keep a close eye on toddlers when they are having dental work done. If you have a toddler, bring a family member who can keep an eye on the child or hire a babysitter to keep the child at home. This is as much for the safety of the child as anything; there are sharp instruments and dangerous chemicals everywhere within the dental office.
#7 – Turn off your cell phone.
Answering a cell phone while you are in the dental chair should never happen. Turn it off, or at least on vibrate. If you are a patient in a dental office where the staff answers their phone or even carries it around with them while they are treating patients, you should probably either have a talk with your dentist or transfer to another office. At work, our attention should be on the patient and only on the patient.
These are just a few tips that responsible patients can follow to improve the relationship between themselves and their dental office. Patients who care about maintaining a positive professional relationship between themselves and the dental staff are the ones we look forward to treating for years to come.
To conclude, a healthy relationship with your dentist helps in keeping your teeth healthy as well. The dental conference 2020 that is scheduled to take place next month will have dignitaries from medicine who are going to say the same.