Team X-Ray Standards Review 

May 31, 2024 Laura Harkin

Laura S. Harkin, DMD 

I’m the owner of a third-generation dental practice. My father was a special person who cared for his patients as much as he did his dentistry. One important piece of advice that he gave was to make sure that my patient records were always complete and pristine. He said, “Anything that you are sending to the laboratory or to a specialist, even down to how you write your lab script or note, must be precise. And the reason is not only to minimize adjustment at the end but to also set an expectation for the same level of care returned by the lab or specialist.” 

As a team, we have spent time evaluating our models and photos to discuss how they can be improved and to recognize our highest standard. Recently, I became a little concerned about some of the radiographs we’d taken in the office. I encountered a few bitewings in which I was able to see the bone levels or the image wasn’t anterior enough to check the distal of the canine. So, as a team, we set aside time to review current x-rays and discuss the diagnostic qualities that we seek to achieve in each type.  

A team huddle provides built-in time and a safe place to do something like this. While reviewing the images, it became very clear that the team knew how to take vertical and horizontal bitewings. They also had a clear visual for how the images should look. Sometimes, however, a team member was shy about retaking an x-ray for they worried that a patient would be uncomfortable with the process. Other times, I imagine, they felt pressed for time and hurried to move down their checklist. 

Our review of images reinforced the level of care we collectively aim to achieve in all facets of our clinical day. Just as we strive for beautiful, mounted study casts, we take our x-rays with intention for our ourselves, our referral sources, and, above all, our patients. Consider taking a team meeting to share each other’s tips and tricks for taking x-rays in patients with difficult anatomy, a gag reflex, or missing teeth. Our own team members have a wealth of knowledge that sometimes doesn’t move from one treatment room to the next! 

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Laura Harkin

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Who Wants the Whole Pie? 

May 27, 2024 David Rice DDS

By David R. Rice, DDS 

I’m guessing your practice is a whole lot like mine. People can be challenging. Patients are people. Ergo, yes, patients often bring us challenges. With that and 29 years into dentistry, there are a few challenges I’m willing to admit and, like you, work to overcome.  

Our great patients get great dentistry.
Our challenging patients get our best effort.
Our job is to understand who each is, what each wants,
and how we do our best to deliver it. 

As you and I learn the best techniques and technology, we have to understand that many of our patients see the world differently. They see it differently than each other, and they see it differently than we do. At first glance, yes, this is an obstacle. But for those of us willing to spend time focusing on their views, this is a massive opportunity.  

About 20 years ago, the treatment planning and presentation mantra our team developed was: Pizza by the slice or the whole pie? 

 A talented and curious team with character, plus a well-defined process,
always equals complete care and profitable production. 

 Here are the four keys: 

  1. Understanding who of our patients wants complete care—the whole pie right now. 
  1. Knowing who of our patients isn’t ready for the whole pie today and needs us to serve that complete care one prioritized slice at a time. 
  1. Recognizing that some patients love pepperoni, some love veggies, some are all NY and thin crust, some love that Chicago deep dish, and so on. 
  1. Delivering each individual patient’s pizza the way they want it without yielding on our quality. 

All our patients come with a story. Some are ready for a whole pie. They want complete care and they want it now. Other patients are overwhelmed by the whole pie. Right or wrong, some past experience makes their yes to the complete care we know they need challenging. We can push them, or we can appreciate where they are and work with them one slice at a time. 

I’m not proposing we compromise our care. I’m offering us all an opportunity to elevate it. Whether you’re scanning and milling, 3D printing, injection molding, direct bonding, or prepping and temping long-term, the materials and technology we have at our fingertips today afford us an incredible ability to segment care. 

Complete-care case acceptance at 90%+ is a reality when we add great communication skills to the clinical skills we’ve worked so diligently to achieve. Today, I challenge you to assess, calibrate, and elevate your ability to deliver pizza by the slice…or the whole pie. 

  

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Getting to Treatment: Letters to My Patients 

May 22, 2024 Laura Harkin

By Laura S. Harkin, DMD  

My dad and I were enjoying our favorite lunch spot years ago when he turned to me and said, “Laura, isn’t it amazing? There’s an incredible sense of trust that our patients have in us. Sometimes, we give our best recommendation for treatment, and it is declined as if it weren’t important or a priority. I’ve recognized that, more often than not, our patients eventually choose to move forward, proving that it was more a matter of timing and circumstance than lack of value.” 

Trust is the cornerstone of our practice. It was transferred from patients to Grandpa to Dad and to me. I do believe that every morsel is earned through guidance, thoughtfulness, and skill. Trust is an entity that requires constant nurturing. In private practice, one should recognize that a doctor’s trust in their patient is equally as important as a patient’s trust in their provider. With synergy there’s the opportunity for optimal health. Even as a child, I had a very clear understanding of the care my dad had for his patients. This feeling is innate and deeply imbedded in me. I imagine that he felt the same.  

I don’t consider myself “a writer,” but I’ve always enjoyed the art of letter writing. I grew up writing frequently to my grandparents and friends and always loved picking out stationary that reflected my personality. Recently, I reread the letters that my grandfather typed on his old typewriter and my oldest brother scribbled on his Grateful Dead CD inserts – crafted just for me. It seems fitting then that I enjoy writing personalized letters to my patients. In fact, I’m pretty sure I salvaged my mental health during COVID by writing “updates” to my patients during months of closure. I digress. 

The letters that I write to my patients are most often in reference to comprehensive treatment. They provide a bird’s eye glimpse of our most recent findings, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations. My older patients, especially, appreciate my thoroughness, organization, and systematic approach to recommended treatment. These letters certainly aren’t handwritten, but the hard copy renders a sense of care that’s transferred from my hands to theirs. We must remember that individuals comprehend and retain information differently. The one-on-one, verbal, treatment consultation can become lost in the shuffle of everyday. Add dental language and complicated procedures to the mix, and that’s simply a recipe for confusion.  

Whenever I present complex treatment to a patient, I write a letter in everyday language to support our conversation. It’s stored in their digital chart as part of their dental record. In my first paragraph, I state my patient’s chief complaint. A summary of clinical findings followed by bullet point. Next, I provide my best treatment recommendation, an appointment sequence, and the financial investment. Photographs are also a helpful insert to aid in explanation for family members who were unable to attend the consultation. I think there’s value in a tangible letter taken home to revisit.  

Treatment letters are also an irreplaceable resource for my team. When a patient calls to schedule treatment previously presented, my stored letter immediately becomes a reference for scheduling appointments, including time allotments and space in-between subsequent visits. In my office, we offer a courtesy for treatment paid in full. This amount is figured in the financial investment portion of my letter so that conversations regarding immediate payment or a payment plan can easily flow. Should a case not be accepted prior to a routine recare visit, this letter serves as an excellent reminder during team huddle. It’s inefficient to page through multiple chart notes and software-driven plans with no explanation of the diagnoses which caused a need for restoration in the first place.  

In my first few years of practice, it was hard for me to accept that I needed to view this document as fluid with a potential need for multiple modifications to suit my patient’s desires and limitations. For example, financial concerns often lead to the need for phased treatment or a compromise from the ideal. I’m committed to openly discussing what may occur if no treatment is rendered or if a compromised approach is chosen. Likewise, I believe in the importance of presenting the financial component of extensive treatment myself. As the dentist and business owner, I must “own” the fee that I’ve carefully determined to reflect indirect and direct time, the skill level and support to be provided by my team, the technical excellence of my laboratory technicians, and my own knowledge. The fee that I present is steadfast, barring an unanticipated need such as root canal therapy. Should there be a need for additional chair-time or visits, it’s included in the quoted fee.  

Finally, my letters include my expectations for post-treatment maintenance. For example, if we are to complete a hybrid case in conjunction with a surgeon, I’m careful to share the importance of periodontal health and frequent maintenance visits to prevent peri-implantitis. In patients who have pre-existing medical conditions that when uncontrolled can be contradictory, I stress the importance of regular monitoring. Ultimately, I strive to empower my patients to choose and achieve oral health, Undoubtedly, oral health positively impacts overall health. My personal letters are a distinguishing trait of my practice that convey the level of care to be carried from presentation through treatment and in maintenance. Consider the value in this extra step! 

 

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Laura Harkin

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Retooling an Implant Supported Hybrid Denture 

May 20, 2024 Lee Ann Brady DMD

By Lee Ann Brady, DMD 

A patient chipped a tooth on her lower hybrid denture and loosened an implant screw. The denture had been placed 18 years ago, so she had an old titanium bar with denture teeth and pink acrylic. That day, I put the screw back in and smoothed out where the tooth was chipped. During this visit we had a great conversation about the future of her hybrid denture. 

I have had a similar conversation with several patients in recent months. They have the original, traditional bar retained hybrid denture that is nearing the end of its lifespan. And so, what are the options? 

  1. If the bar is in great shape, new denture teeth and a new denture base can be milled and placed over the existing titanium bar. 
  1. Alternatively, we can get rid of the bar and go to something that is all zirconia. 

If there is a preference for the first option, the first requirement is to make sure the titanium bar is in good condition. After 18 years, we would take it off and have the laboratory examine it under microscopy.  

If converting to all-zirconia and the patient has had upper and lower dentures, we must consider if one arch can be converted without converting the second arch. A zirconia arch is going to wear an opposing original denture fast if there is parafunction, and the zirconia arch is likely to fracture the opposing original prosthetic teeth. 

We have options today we can think about with our patients, but many have in their minds that when they got their hybrid dentures years ago, the dentures would last. All the time, energy, and dollars to freshen up or replace their denture is a big deal to them. Shifting their mindset from “I thought I was done investing in dentistry” to “My denture is at the end of its lifespan” is a big hurdle. So, the earlier we can start those conversations before they need to invest, the easier they can transition their minds to accept care with grace when the time comes. 

When your bar retained hybrid denture patients visit for perio maintenance and your exams, inform them of the lifespan of their denture is at most 20 years and set expectations for discussing the best available options at some point in the future.  

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Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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Leading Patients with Simple Questions 

May 17, 2024 David Rice DDS

By David R. Rice, DDS 

I travel a lot for speaking engagements and often ride to and from the airport using Uber. As I make small talk with the drivers, inevitably they ask what I do for a living. One day, as I shared that I was a dentist, the driver said, “I’m finally straightening my teeth with those aligners.”  

I thought, “Okay, he’s either seeing a dentist or he’s doing this thing on his own.” Either assumption would’ve potentially painted me into a corner, so instead of assuming, I asked a simple, yet leading question: “Good for you. Is your dentist happy with the progress?” 

Leading questions like that help us walk a patient down the path we want. His response was, “Wait a second, this should be done with a dentist?” 

With one question, I got to the heart of the matter. From there, I responded and asked a series of simple (and again leading) questions: “Yes, seeing a dentist helps to know if you are a good candidate to move your teeth at all. How is the health of your mouth? Are your gums healthy? Do you have any cavities?” 

Now he was thinking, “Wow, not only should I be going to the dentist but there are things that could go wrong.” 

I asked him one more simple set of questions: “Would you like to know basic things that could go wrong? Or would you like to know what might really go wrong and harm you?” He, of course, wanted to know what could harm him. 

Simple, leading questions get to the point. So, when restoring a patient, I think about the simplest questions to ask to understand what the patient understands, what the patient really wants, and why. In short, I want to know what matters most to them and connect that to the dentistry I know they need. As an example, I might ask, “Do you want to replicate mother nature when we restore that tooth, or do you want to improve upon mother nature? Would you like to discuss preventing future problems that will save you time and money or just focus on today’s problems? 

These leading, simple questions prompt a response that enables me to determine if the patient wants just a slice of pizza—say a crown, the patient wants the whole pie—an optimal smile, or the patient wants something in between. Based on that input, I know how to best have a great conversation with the patient—a conversation the patient will appreciate and through which I can earn more trust.  

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David Rice DDS

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Partnering in Health Part 3: The Power of the Medical History 

May 11, 2024 Mary Osborne RDH

By Mary Osborne, RDH  

The late Dr. Bob Barkley said your dental degree gives you the right to practice dentistry, but you have to earn the right to influence your patients. How do we earn the right to influence? How do we get that invitation we need to be invited into influence? 

There is a powerful tool you already have in your practice that can enhance your relationships from the initial visit through continuing care: a Health History. The Medical History forms most offices use are designed to efficiently gather information from patients about existing and previous conditions and diseases. Patients quickly check boxes. But it can do so much more. If you use health histories as opportunities to begin a dialogue with your patients you can also connect with them in the context of a mutually interesting topic — their health! 

I might begin a conversation with a new patient by saying “In this practice we believe that the health of your teeth is related to your overall health. I know you filled out this health history form and we can talk about the specifics of that, but I wonder if we could begin by taking a few minutes for you to tell me a little bit about your health in general.” Beginning with a conversation in that way it takes us out of focus on disease and opens the door to talking about health; what they know about their health, how they feel about it, and what they do to maintain health. Similarly, when a patient comes in for a hygiene visit instead of asking if there are any changes in their medical history, I might ask, “How has your health been since I saw you last?”  If we listen carefully to their stories about health, we will gather important clinical data, and we will also begin to understand their values. We will begin to co-discover what is important to them. 

The concept of co-discovery is frequently seen as having to do with helping the patient see current clinical conditions that we see. In that way, it’s a very useful tool. But I’d like you to begin to also think about co-discovery as a way of being in relationship with your patients. When you take a few minutes to have a dialogue about health you learn about your patients, as they learn about themselves. It is an opportunity for you to learn about their experiences, concerns, and perceived barriers to health—and it’s also an opportunity for patients to learn about themselves. 

In her book, “Kitchen Table Wisdom,” Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen says, “When you listen generously to people they can hear truth in themselves, often for the first time.” If you’ve had a conversation like this you know the magic that occurs as a patient realizes things about themselves they’ve never thought of before. As they speak out loud they hear themselves for the first time. I have found that if I show up as an understanding fellow traveler with a desire to learn, it opens the door for them to begin to see me as a trusted advisor. 

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Mary Osborne RDH

Mary is known internationally as a writer and speaker on patient care and communication. Her writing has been acclaimed in respected print and online publications. She is widely known at dental meetings in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker. Her passion for dentistry inspires individuals and groups to bring the best of themselves to their work, and to fully embrace the difference they make in the lives of those they serve.

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Green Eggs and Ham 

May 9, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Paul A. Henny, DDS 

Oftentimes, perspective is everything. Our thoughts influence our emotions, and then our emotions influence our behavior. How we view our situation as challenging but surmountable, impossible and insurmountable, or somewhere in-between, influences the outcome itself. 

When challenged with a difficult situation, for example, chronic intra-staff turmoil, how we view the problem makes all the difference in the world. A conclusion of “That’s just the way people are and I can’t change it,” yields a very different outcome than “I’ve got to do something about this right now, because it is holding my practice back.” 

In 1960, Bennet Cerf made a $50 bet with Theo Geisel. Bennet, the founder of Random House Publishing, bet Geisel, already a well-known author, that he couldn’t author a successful book that only had fifty different words. 

Bennet lost the bet because Geisel saw the imposed limitation as a creative opportunity. The outcome was a book that would sell over 200 million copies. He titled it “Green Eggs and Ham.” 

It’s old news that dentistry is rapidly changing—and in some ways not for the better. But if we focus on the negatives, we automatically shut down the creative solution-oriented side of our brain. 

When we are locked into a glass-half-empty mindset, we think the glass will surely be even more empty soon. Einstein, Jobs, Edison, and Tesla avoided such thinking. That’s why they just kept on creating and overcoming seemingly impossible odds along the way.  

Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  

Putting on our overall and going to work is precisely how we should approach our challenges. We need to stop ruminating over what we think can’t be accomplished, because chances are quite good that they can be. Failing to do so will cause another day to be lost spinning our wheels instead of moving forward. 

Looking for inspiration and examples of creative opportunities in dentistry? My CoDiscovery book—available on Amazon and in the Pankey Institute’s online store, is full of them. 

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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The Life and Legacy of Napoleon Hill Might Just Inspire You, Too 

May 3, 2024 Bill Davis

By Bill Davis, DDS 

When Dr. L. D. Pankey was developing his Philosophy, he studied with many early American business authors and teachers. One such person was Napoleon Hill (1883 -1970). Hill was considered one of the earliest producers of the modern genre of personal success literature.  

Hill’s Early Life 

He was born in a one-room cabin near the town of Pound in the Appalachian area of Southwest Virginia. Unfortunately, his mother died when he was 9 years old. At the age of 13 he began his writing career as a “mountain reporter” for his father’s local newspaper. Later, he moved to Pittsburgh to work for a big city newspaper as a reporter. 

A Career-Making Assignment 

In 1908, the editor of the newspaper assigned Napoleon, who was the papers newest and youngest reporter, the job of interviewing the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. At the time Mr. Carnegie, known for his steel business, was among the most powerful men in the world. Napoleon was warned that Mr. Carnegie did not do interviews. Undaunted, Hill went to Andrew Carnegie’s office and told the receptionist he was a reporter and asked to speak to Mr. Carnegie. When he was turned down for the interview and told again that Mr. Carnegie did not like to do interviews, Napoleon didn’t give up. He came back daily and sat in the reception area. 

Persistence Paid Off 

During the second week of going in and out of his office, Andrew Carnegie asked, “Who is that young man waiting in the reception room.” Carnegie was told it was a newspaper reporter waiting to see him. That evening, at the end of the day, Mr. Carnegie went out to the reception room to see if the young newspaper reporter, who had been waiting quietly for over a week to see him, was still there. 

After they introduced themselves, Napoleon told Carnegie he had been sent by his editor to get a story. Napoleon told Mr. Carnegie he hoped to interview him and other wealthy people to discover a simple formula for success. Carnegie was so impressed that he took Napoleon to dinner to continue their conversation. 

This was the beginning of a great friendship, and over the next year they met regularly to develop the formula, as Carnegie also wanted to know the formula. Carnegie presented Napoleon with a letter of introduction to Henry Ford. Ford, after his series of interviews, introduced Hill to Alexander Graham Bell, Elmer R. Gates, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, and others. 

Hill’s Bestselling Book 

In 1937, Napoleon Hill published a bestselling book, THINK AND GROW RICH, which emphasized a positive attitude and having good communication skills. After reading the book, Dr. L. D. Pankey was very impressed by Hill’s statement: Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Conceiving and believing are just the first steps to achieving your goals. According to Hill, you must take serious action. 

Every innovation, every invention, and every work of art begins with an idea. Long before the Wright brothers ever flew, Leonardo Da Vinci had sketched and designed an aircraft. Da Vinci conceived of mechanized flight, but the Wright brothers believed it was possible, they acted on that belief, and thus achieved flight.  

Hill’s Lasting Impact on Dentistry 

In 1929, L. D. Pankey had the idea that teeth could and should be saved, although at first, he didn’t know how. His belief was strong enough to motivate him to do some research, study what was known at that time, and do the necessary experimentation to make his idea a reality. One of the people he was most inspired by was Napoleon Hill. His model of ambition and teachings about how others achieved innovations spurred L. D. on. Belief in himself and his idea helped L. D. persist despite some uncertainty, blind alleys, and many other frustrations. 

The ambition and growing ability to save teeth was arguably the biggest change ever to occur in dentistry. From this concept, innumerable innovations have been born and are accelerating today. 

Where Would You Like to Go? 

There is an old Chinese saying, “If you do not know where you are going, you are likely to end up somewhere.”  

Too many people end up “somewhere” because they have not clearly defined where they want to go. The first step in moving toward greater satisfaction is to set specific goals. Vague goals such as, “I’d like to be a better dentist,” “I’d like to be happier,” or “I’d like to make more money,” are common.  

Napolean Hill would say that more specificity will take you somewhere purposeful. Perhaps, “I would like to learn about implant placement,” “I want to have more fun with my children,” or “I want to earn 15% more this a year.” Then, be evermore specific and set definite time frames so you can measure your progress. For example:  

  • “I would like to begin training in implant placement this coming September and be placing implants successfully in June. Tomorrow, I will begin by investigating continuing education programs in the science of implants.” 
  • “I would like to have more fun with my children. At dinner tonight, I will ask my children about ideas they think would be fun activities, and we will start by doing one of the activities each week.”  
  • “I would like to increase my income by 15% this year. I will meet with my accountant and a dental practice coach this month to look at ways to increase my profitability. I will also do some more reading in practice management.” 

Believe in Your Goals and Your Ability to Achieve Them 

Once you have conceived your ideas, you must believe it is possible to achieve them. Without the power of belief, you will not take your ideas seriously; nor are you likely to weather the many setbacks and frustrations that will probably come along with you on your journey. 

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Bill Davis

William J. Davis DDS, MS is practicing dentist and a Professor at the University of Toledo in the College Of Medicine. He has been directing a hospital based General Practice Residency for past 40 years. Formal education at Marquette, Sloan Kettering Michigan, the Pankey Institute and Northwestern. In 1987 he co-authored a book with Dr. L.D. Pankey, “A Philosophy of the Practice of Dentistry”. Bill has been married to his wife, Pamela, for 50 years. They have three adult sons and four grandchildren. When not practicing dentistry he teaches flying.

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Partnering in Health Part 1: The Missing Piece 

May 1, 2024 Mary Osborne RDH

By Mary Osborne, RDH 

There was a time when I thought “partnering in health” was just about getting people to take better care of their teeth. 

Many years ago, I had a patient who was excellent with her home care, but she showed up periodically with an acute periodontal infection. We asked about stress and her overall health, but she was not aware of any issues. We would treat the infection and she would be fine for a sometime. We knew she worked for National Public Radio, and one day we made the connection that her infections showed up concurrent with NPR’s fund-raising drives. That shared realization allowed us to help her see that her stress was affecting her dental health and her overall health. She was open to conversations about lifestyle changes that would help her be healthier. My relationship with her influenced my thinking and my ability to connect with my patients from a perspective of Whole-health Dentistry. I came to understand that I had been missing opportunities to influence the way people think and feel about health. I knew that I wanted my patients to see me as “a partner in health.” 

Unfortunately, most of our patients come to us with the perspective that we are fixers of teeth, not partners in health. 

In the culture today people are bombarded with information about what is healthy. From friends and families, social and news media, and a wide variety of health care practitioners, everybody expresses opinions on how they are supposed to take care of themselves. Why, then, are we surprised when our patients don’t know whom to trust? Why are we surprised when they shrug their shoulders or appear confused? It’s not always a case of conflicting facts but a case of various perspectives that people don’t know how to navigate. 

Think about where you place your trust. How do you decide whom to trust about decisions—whether it’s about your health, or about your finances, or about how you raise your children? When I ask myself that question, two criteria surface. They need to know their subject and to know me. I want that person to know what it is they’re talking about. I want them to be well informed. I also want someone who knows me, who understands my values. I want that person to have a sense of who I am and what is important to me. 

As we get to know our patients over the years, most of them come to see us as trusted advisors when it comes to their dental health—but fewer see us as trusted advisors when it comes to their general health. If we jump too quickly to making recommendations about their overall health, we are more likely to meet resistance. If we want to cross the bridge into influencing our patients’ overall health and wellbeing, I believe we need an invitation to cross that bridge.   

The Missing Piece in our quest to influence the overall health of our patients is the failure to invite patients to share their perspectives on health. Beginning a conversation with a new patient with the question, “What can you tell me about your health in general?” is an invitation for them to talk about their experience of their health, not just details. Instead of “reviewing” health histories, what if we “explore” health histories? As we connect and get to know each other we can learn to listen beyond information to hear attitudes, beliefs, fears, biases, concerns, barriers, etc. As you understand their perspectives on health issues that come up in conversation, it’s easy to ask if they would like your perspective on that issue. These conversations often lead to more questions and answers that invite more and more invitations from our patients to be their partner in health. 

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Mary Osborne RDH

Mary is known internationally as a writer and speaker on patient care and communication. Her writing has been acclaimed in respected print and online publications. She is widely known at dental meetings in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker. Her passion for dentistry inspires individuals and groups to bring the best of themselves to their work, and to fully embrace the difference they make in the lives of those they serve.

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Be Cautious with Retraction Pastes

April 24, 2024 Lee Ann Brady

Lee Ann Brady, DMD 

I’m a big fan of retraction pastes, which are aluminum-based hemostatic agents. Their attributes make them highly effective when I need them, but they are also technique sensitive. 

  • They are great for hemostasis within sixty seconds
  • For a stringent retraction, you can leave them in place for two to five minutes
  • They are so thick and viscous you can see them and easily rinse them off
  • They do not cause prep discoloration like liquid hemostatic agents do
  • They can interfere with the set of VPS or polyether impression materials but are less likely to do that than the liquids because they are so easily rinsed off

We must still be careful, though, to remove retraction paste from the sulcus. If residue is left behind, the impression material will not fully polymerize around the margin. So, while I love retraction pastes for hemostasis, I don’t use them unless I need them. I still prefer a two-cord technique using plain cord and epinephrine. When I do use a retraction paste, I am extremely methodical about rinsing the paste out of the sulcus. 

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Lee Ann Brady

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