by Carol Jahn, RDH, MS
When patients aren’t compliant, our natural instinct is to provide more information/education on why they should change their behavior. Yet the Heath brothers found that knowing something isn’t enough; it’s feeling something that drives change. How can we do this? One way might be to take a photo of the problem — swollen tissue, decay, broken filling, etc. — and another photo of a healthy area and show it to them. Why do things like this work? Who among us hasn’t seen a photo of ourselves and had that "a-ha" moment that it was time to lose weight, change our hair style, or color our gray. Another key element is to try and shrink the change. What this means is to break it down into manageable bits. If you patient seems overwhelmed by having to do something every day or multiple times a day, start out by asking them how often it would be reasonable for them to do it, and begin there. What does this do? It helps build confidence. New runners don’t start out running marathons; they train to get to that point. Start small and develop a growth mindset — if you did this, next time you can do this.3. Shape the path — clearing the way to help them succeedRemember the definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? If you want to change behavior, change the situation. If your patient hasn’t flossed in five years, they never will. Recommend something easier. If you want to build the habit, help them find things that they like and will use. It’s human nature to like something that makes life easier. Help them find triggers to encourage new habits. A Water Flosser on the counter is a lot harder to ignore than floss in the drawer. Finally, share your successes — not just with the patients but with your co-workers. If you recommend the Water Flosser and the doctor walks in and asks if the patient is flossing, you’ll create confusion and erode the confidence you’ve worked hard to build. The clearest path is one where everyone walks the talk.This is just a brief synopsis of the wisdom of the Health brothers. For more examples and greater depth visit www.heathbrothers.com/switch.
Carol Jahn, RDH, MS, has been a dental hygienist for 28 years and is the Senior Professional Relations Manager for Water Pik, Inc,