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Communicating with patients about dental lasers: What to say and how to say it

June 27, 2023
In our three-part series, we focus on communicating effectively with patients about dental lasers, including what to say and how to say it, what not to say, and ways to increase case acceptance.

Read more in this series on communicating with patients about lasers:

Any hygienist can be great clinically in the use of dental lasers, but without effective communication skills we’ll never get them into our hands to perform the procedures. It all starts with what we say and, even more importantly, what our patients hear.

It’s important to understand the terminology and make sure we’re all on the same page in how we say things, especially in offices with multiple hygienists. If we say the same things and treatment plan the same way, then our patients will understand what we are trying to convey to them and be invested in their dental treatment.

Read more about lasers …

Try implementing these concepts as you talk to patients

Laser-assisted periodontal therapy. Instead of saying SRP with lasers, use the term laser-assisted periodontal therapy. Our patients don’t understand what SRP is, and the term itself is dated.

Laser bacterial reduction. This is a term used for decreasing inflammation with the laser at a very low setting. The laser is placed just under the margins and doesn’t cause any tissue interaction.

Infection. Use words patients can understand so they know the seriousness of what has been taking place in their mouth.

Oral-systemic link. Remind patients that there is a connection between the mouth and the rest of the body. Patients don’t always understand why we need to know their health and medical conditions.

Pathogenic bacteria. There are both good and bad bacteria. If we don’t identify the ones that concern us, our patients won’t see the difference either.

Bleeding. We often say things like “a little bit of bleeding.” But the part the patient hears is “a little bit.” We need to eliminate words that can diminish the importance of treatment.

Technology. This is where we have an opportunity to showcase our offices and our doctors by letting patients know that we keep up with the latest technology.

Foundation/baseline. We can use this term when we are periodontal charting, even if the patient’s periodontal numbers are okay. It’s always important to create a baseline.

Maintain periodontal health. This is a great phrase to use for patients who have completed dental procedures. This is the time we place them on a regular appointment interval that will help them “maintain their periodontal health.”

Sequence of therapy. We can use this term when we know several appointments will be necessary to complete treatment. We can prioritize treatment for the severe areas first.

Standard of care. When we first introduce lasers into the practice, sometimes we need to do things differently than we have in the past. We can use standard of care to help us transition into innovative technology.

Latest/recent research. This is another way to credit the innovative technology that your office is offering.

Individualized care. This is one of my favorite things to say! We don’t treat everyone the same; we look at what the individual’s body needs for treatment—not what the insurance company says or what others have done, but based on what their body needs to stay healthy. The patient may say they can only do what their insurance allows for financial reasons, but that’s for the patient to decide—not us. This also comes into play when we use various laser settings. Not all settings work with every patient.

Read the tissue. It is super important to do this every time we use the laser. Tissue will clearly show us when we are doing the laser procedures correctly and getting the interaction we’re wanting.

We now know. This is another way to introduce innovative technology into the dental practice. It serves as a positive way to say, “what we were doing before didn’t work.”

Achieve your dental goals. We can say this to encourage patients and let them know that we are here for them. It’s a great way to help patients who are discouraged or those who need reassurance that what they’re doing is working and that they’re heading in the right direction.

By adding these concepts to our daily communication with patients, we’ll help them better understand their dental conditions. They’ll know we’re here for them and are treating them—not being limited by their insurance company. We want patients to know we’re caring for their dental needs and want the very best for them.

Author’s note: The Academy of Laser Dentistry is a good resource.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Through the Loupes newsletter, a publication of the Endeavor Business Media Dental Group. Read more articles and subscribe to Through the Loupes.