So you have six-month recalls for your patients?

Sept. 9, 2010

By Donald J. Aronson, DDS, FAGD

Have you ever wondered how the six-month recall came into existence for your patients? I remember how I was taught this concept when I entered the practice of dentistry just under 50 years ago. It was sort of a required practice.

I can remember when I was a young boy and there was no such thing as TV, and the only home entertainment was listening to music on records or listening to the radio.

My favorite radio program was “Amos and Andy,” which was a fabulous program sponsored by Pepsodent Tooth Powder. In those days (about 60 years ago) going to a dentist was not a routine procedure for people. In fact, most people only went to a dentist when they needed an extraction. There were several powders available for people to use when (and if) they brushed their teeth. Two of the major powders were Pepsodent Tooth Powder and Detoxal Tooth Powder. The procedure was to put some powder on the palm of your hand, wet your toothbrush, and touch the powder with your brush.

By the way ... at that point in time there was no such material as dental paste. Dental powder was the only available product.

Unfortunately, not everyone brushed their teeth as part of their daily routine. With this fact, tooth powders were not highly utilized, and therefore sales of those powders were always a bit below expectations.

In order to increase sales of their product, the executive at Pepsodent asked an advertising company to improve their advertising program. It didn't take long before an advertisement came out for Pepsodent advising patients to brush their teeth daily or twice a day.

Fortunately for dentists, the executive of Pepsodent did not accept the ad as it was because he knew that people in general only went to see a dentist when they had a toothache, and sometimes only when they needed an extraction. Therefore, if he allowed the ad as it on “Amos and Andy,” there would be a decrease in patients for dentists. This would lead to a decrease in dentists recommending Pepsodent, and product sales would go down.

Realizing this, the Pepsodent executive told the advertising company to change the commercial on “Amos and Andy” to recommend that people visit their dentist regularly, twice a year at least. When this ad was changed, dentists began to see their patients more regularly. Thus began the idea to have dentists suggest that their patients return for a dental visit every six months.

When I started my dental practice, I started with the six-month visit program. When I noticed good oral care by my patients, I moved them to seven or eight month visits. I must say that many people in my practice were moved to nine months when it was obvious they took good care of their teeth. Those patients had excellent home care, and most said they appreciated specialized care and good oral health.

I must admit that in all those years I only had one patient who needed to come in annually for a prophylaxis and exam. This lasted for about eight years until one day he came in with some small caries that needed to be repaired.

When I asked him to tell me about his change in dental care, he explained that he was now using his car to go from one customer to another. Knowing that he smoked, I asked him if he used any candy to cover his smoking oral odor. He said yes, so I asked him to show me what he used. He showed me a mint full of sugar. I told him I wanted to purchase that candy, so I gave him $1 for the mints and explained to him about other mints that he could use that didn’t contain sugar.

He was very appreciative. I started him back on a six-month visitation series, and he never had another caries, at least on my watch.

I can't guarantee success with this, but it certainly created happy patients.

Dr. Aronson graduated from the University of Texas Dental Branch in 1962 and served in the United States Air Force. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].