Communication is Key

Periodontal disease is one of the most prevalent chronic inflammatory diseases in the United States and it is a key indicator of other systemic diseases.  Dentistry has a significant role in reducing the impact of chronic disease in patients who trust their dental teams to guide them to total body health.  From the first call and through every step of the patient experience, such as reviewing the medical history, the conversation should include the oral systemic connection.

Dental teams are in a unique position to deliver the total body health message to their patient population.  This message and how it is delivered is important for dental team members to understand.  Understanding the systemic movement of periodontal pathogens, microbiomes, and dormant bacteria are some aspects to consider.  Mastering the skill of educating and inspiring your patients to move forward with periodontal therapy and saliva testing is another aspect.

When reviewing the health history, be sure to identify the risk factors that may hinder your patient from achieving optimum health.  Once these risk factors have been identified, start your conversations in a non-judgmental and compassionate way.  These conversations require courage.  Entering these conversations in a positive way and recognizing the hidden gifts of these conversations is sure to inspire your patient to move forward in a healthy way.

Expect the conversation to go well and even better than expected.  Simply focus on the benefits you are offering your patient.  Give your patient clear choices and allow them to be part of the solution.  Being open to a new possibility or idea that may come from this conversation is key in allowing the patient to be open and honest with you.  For instance, your patient may be very open with you and tell you that they will not be compliant with a certain product that you recommend.  Learn to work with the patient to find a solution that will work for them and will move them forward with their dental care.  Assure your patient that you believe their result will lead them to a healthier life.  Oral systemic health is not just about saving teeth, it’s about saving lives.

Physical positioning with your patients is essential when entering these crucial conversations.  It is important to be at eye level when speaking with your patient.  Eye level positioning helps to lower the feeling of judgement and offers safety.  Many people have been in a dental environment before where they felt highly judged.  Shame and guilt are quite often on our patients’ minds when they enter our practices and being able to overcome those feelings will allow for inspiring conversations to happen.

Using visual guides is an effective way to communicate and educate your patients.  Showing a patient their salivary testing report such as MyPerioPath® can be very eye opening to the patient and it can guide you through the conversation of total body health.

These conversations can be difficult for the dental team but can be life-changing for your patients.  Helping a patient navigate through a periodontal treatment plan that sets them up for optimal health, and quite possibly an extended life, can be one of the most rewarding moments of your career.

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Traci Warner, RDH
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