Doctors have long been the trusted, authoritative voice on all things related to oral health. Patients relied on our years of training and accepted treatment without much question. These days, technologically-savvy patients aren’t interested in a monologue from their doctor; they want to join the conversation. Not only do they demand a two-way dialog—a perfectly reasonable request that should be encouraged, we want our patients to ask question and understand their treatment—but websites like WebMD and online forums now have patients “crowd sourcing” the best treatment options. That means the conversation between you and your patient can quickly become a figurative shouting match between you, the patient and everyone the patient chatted with on the “The Worst Things that Can Go Wrong during a Root Canal” forum.
However, no matter how many online articles the patient reads; forums they visit for advice; or symptoms they self-diagnose based on a Google search, the doctor is the expert. But how do we let our voices be heard? I recommend we not only “talk the talk,” but “walk the walk” by demonstrating to our patients our expertise and dedication to their care with the safest, most advanced imaging technology.
- Cone beam computed tomography offers patients a view of their anatomy like never before. A 3D image that can manipulated with the click of a mouse goes a long way when sitting down with a patient to explain an issue. A CBCT scan offers axial, coronal and sagittal views so your patient can see every angle of the issue.
- Digital intraoral scanners also give your patients a 3D view of their teeth. Patients are fascinated to see the images appear on the chair side computer in real time—not only that, they really appreciate digital impressions over the “goo” associated with traditional impressions. Plus, some doctors send the digital files to a lab to fabricate a model. Letting the patient examine the physical model of their teeth while you discuss treatment options has a huge impact on acceptance.
- Out of all your technology, your patients may grasp digital intraoral cameras the best; after all, they use the digital cameras on their smartphones on a daily basis. An intraoral camera lets patients see exactly what you see. As a colleague once said, “they understand right away instead of me trying to give 30 years of experience.”
As an example, this kind of technology is incredibly useful when a patient presents for a second opinion on whether to retreat a cracked tooth or extract and place an implant. CBCT technology gives both me and the patient the ability to definitively see the fractured root and allows us to “co-diagnose” to make the best decision on that tooth. There’s a huge difference between the patient doing an Internet search for “cracked tooth” and a doctor showing them a 3D image of their own mouth.
Each case is different, and by using the right technology to show the patient his or hers own teeth (not a vague scenario from a stranger in a forum) we reinforce the fact that the doctor’s training and technology makes them the best person to recommend treatment. Ours must be the voice of reason that rises above the din.