There is a practice in Ohio I recently work with, in which the dentist and a young hygienist were having a chat about the idea of restorative partnership. When she first heard the idea, her reply was beautiful. She said, “Oh you want me to learn about treatment planting,” and I thought that was just the coolest thing ever because that is what we get to do when we think about developing patients over time. We are planting ideas…planting seeds that we can grow.
When I was still working as a hygienist, I found I was good at talking with patients about what was going on in their mouths… what I saw… what the possibilities were. And I even enjoyed dreaming with patients about what their mouth could be like if they chose to do dentistry proactively rather than reactively. So, it is interesting to me how many hygienists become nervous about the idea of talking about dentistry with patients.
This nervousness exists because we have been taught in and out of hygiene school that it is illegal for hygienists to diagnose. This one barrier has become an incredible obstacle to having conversations about current conditions and possibilities with patients. It does not need to be this way.
When I think about restorative partnership, now, I think of it as treatment planting! The doctor diagnoses and discusses the potential of treatment with the patient. And during recall appointments, the hygienist has amazing opportunity to plant seeds during encouraging conversations. A restorative partner deeply appreciates the developmental path that dental patients are often on and looks for opportunities to plant seeds of awareness, curiosity, and of course, possibilities.
Wouldn’t it be cool if a patient came in one day and said, “You know, we’ve been talking about this idea of comprehensive care… we’ve been talking about the idea of restoring this quadrant… and I want to go ahead with it.” Wouldn’t it be exciting if suddenly what you have been talking about blooms like a beautiful flower?
If you have been thinking about having a conversation with your team members about restorative partnership, starting the conversation around “planting seeds” would be enormously helpful. Think about looking at cases together…creating learning opportunities in your office, where you can start sharing more of your knowledge about what it takes to work in a patient’s mouth, examining photographs together and talking about what you see, talking about the implications and consequences of not having treatment done, and what the benefits could be of thinking about treatment.
The restorative choice is always in the patient’s hands, and what I find to be most exciting about the restorative partnership is the partnership that we, as dental professionals, get to develop with our patients.