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Thursday Troubleshooter: How can new dentist inform patients about x-ray changes?

Aug. 10, 2017
The former dentist did not take patient x-rays regularly. How can the new dentist who bought the practice inform patients that this is something that needs to be done, but not scare them away from the practice?

Nearly everyone has problems and concerns on the job, and sometimes you're just too close to a situation to solve something yourself. Share your concerns with Team Troubleshooter, and the experts will examine the issues and provide guidance. Send questions to [email protected].


QUESTION: I recently read the Thursday Troubleshooter about the MISDIAGNOSED PERIO DUE TO REFUSAL OF X-RAYS. I’m taking over a practice where this is also going on. How should I phrase this change to patients as I am taking over treatment? I want to retain the patients because this practice has been around for 40 years. Also, there have not been full mouth series taken either. This will definitely be a new element for all of the staff as we move along with the transition.

ANSWER FROM CHRIS SALIERNO,editor of Dental Economics:
Changing treatment protocols when you take over for a dentist is tricky. You must always follow the appropriate guidelines and should never compromise care simply because the previous dentist did so. But, of course, the real challenge is explaining this to patients.

Here are a few things to consider:

(1) Make the selling dentist part of the solution. If the selling dentist will be around after the sale, he or she should be the one telling patients that your protocols are necessary for proper treatment. This can be done in-person as patients come in for their recall visits and it can also be done with a letter. Selling dentists are supposed to be writing a personal letter to patients introducing you, and your updated treatment protocols can be highlighted in the letter. The selling dentist can do all of this without incriminating himself or herself. Here’s an example: "I'm thrilled to transition your care to Dr. Chris Salierno. He is bringing the latest technology and research to this practice. For example, he is closely following the American Dental Association's latest guidelines for dental imaging, and I agree with him."

(2) Get the office team on your side. The front desk, hygienists, and assistants should be swayed to your side about updated radiographs. In many regards these folks probably know the patients even better than the selling dentist. They should be taught why your protocols are more appropriate, and they should agree to help you present this to patients. You should not be the only one telling patients they are due for a full mouth series!

(3) Create a script. When you do find a patient who is resistant to taking radiographs, have a prepared response that will help you consistently present your rationale. You may also want to present the ADA's guidelines as proof that you are not just making this stuff up. An example: "Dr. X took great care of you for the past 20 years and I'm honored to now assume that responsibility. According to the American Dental Association, we're a bit overdue for taking a standard series of dental images. I take your oral health very seriously and I want to make sure adhere to the latest guidelines." From there, you can address their specific concerns and show them how frequently they should be receiving radiographs moving forward.

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Don't be shy! If YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed, send it to [email protected] for the experts to answer. Remember, you'll be helping others who share the same issue. Responses will come from various dental consultants, as well as other experts in the areas of human resources, coding, front office management, and more. These folks will assist dental professionals with their various issues on DentistryIQ because they're very familiar with the tough challenges day-to-day practice can bring.

All inquiries will be answered anonymously each Thursday here on DIQ.

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