dental laser

Communicating with patients about dental lasers: What NOT to say

July 14, 2023
In part two of our series on communicating effectively with patients about dental lasers, we look at terms we should avoid saying to patients so as not to confuse them or discredit what we’re trying to get across.

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

When communicating with patients and team members about dental lasers, it’s just as important to know what not to say as it is to know what to say and how to say it. Consider not using these terms, as they may be dated, confuse patients, or even discredit what you are really trying to communicate.

Avoid these terms when talking to patients about lasers

Little: Patients associate this with a little discomfort, or a little price, or a little time. When we say a little bit of bleeding, the only words patients hear are a little.

You may also be interested in … How to stop sabotaging your patients’ care with this “little” word

Cleaning: We clean toilets, and yes, I know some patients’ mouths fall into this category too! I’m not against saying cleaning if the patient is in a healthy state. But as soon as they move to periodontal maintenance, we know there is so much more going on than just a cleaning. If we refer to both situations as cleanings, patients may question why we charge more for periodontal maintenance.

Deep cleaning: Get rid of this term! We provide periodontal therapy.

Scaling and root planing: Ditch this outdated term. We plane a piece of wood to make it smooth; we no longer make tooth root structures smooth. We still remove the toxins, but we don’t need to scale the teeth to death and create hourglass-shaped teeth.

Just: This is probably the word I dislike the most: “It’s just a cleaning,” or “I am just an assistant.”

Never: We know we can’t use this term in dentistry, because never and always aren’t accurate. When we say these words, they can come back to haunt us.

Watch: Hmm, all we’re going to do is watch it get worse? Maybe say area of concern instead.

Here are a few others to consider not using: just a cleaning, second cleaning, gross scaling, or fine scaling.

Avoid these administrative terms when talking about lasers

When we’re talking about administrative issues, consider not using these terms:

Booked: A person is booked for a crime. Maybe the patient should be scheduled.

Cancellation list: This tells our patients that we have a whole list of people who cancel their appointments. How about saying priority list instead?

Insurance coverage: Insurance doesn’t cover anything; it only assists with some things. Maybe we should tell the patient: The insurance assistance that your HR department chose for you

Dental work: Dental investment. Cost … investment. Work … can we clock in? It’s best to avoid using the term dental work altogether.

Think before you speak

The next time you’re inclined to use one of these terms, think about how your patient will hear it. Also, remember, we are not a “staff” (that’s an infection); we’re a team.

Let’s all get on the same page as we better communicate with patients, so they truly understand what we’re saying.

Read more about dental lasers …

So, you want to be a laser dental hygienist?

Which dental laser should I choose, and what can I use it for?

What type of training do dental hygienists need to use lasers?

What is the difference between LAPT and LBR?

Laser safety eyewear: It’s nonnegotiable

How do you find the best laser for your dental practice?

Laser procedures for dental hygienists: Herpetic lesions and desensitization

Physics and the dental laser

How dental hygienists can encourage greater use of lasers in the dental office

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.