Howard Speaks: Get the Picture(s) by Dr. Howard Farran

Howard Speaks: Get the Picture(s) 

by Howard Farran, DDS, MBA, publisher, Dentaltown magazine

Awhile back, I was encouraging my fellow dentists to start using cameras to help show patients why we’re telling them something should be done to their teeth. The example I used involved taking images of a patient’s back teeth so they could see with their own eyes the pits and fissures a sealant could fill to help prevent the risk of decay.

That was in 1991, the book was The Bu$ine$$ of Denti$try and I was talking about a Polaroid CU-5 camera—yes, the kind of Polaroid where you had to wait a minute before you could peel back the paper to see the exposed image!—so that dentists wouldn’t have to spring for a costly intraoral camera.

I’m happy to report that the state of intraoral imaging has come a long way over the past 30-plus years: In a February poll on, only 13% of respondents said they don’t use an intraoral camera or show patients images during consultations and treatments.

Don’t be camera-shy
That’s still 13% too many, though! Now more than ever, patients demand to see proof before they’ll agree to recommended treatments. And if you refuse to pick up an intraoral camera or a DSLR to help persuade them to say yes, you’re stubbornly and deliberately leaving money on the table.

I mean, many orthodontic patients are out there scanning both arches with smartphone cameras as part of their remote treatment, but you can’t bother to show patients what you see happening inside their mouths?

When I take my car in for service, the mechanic sends me a video walkthrough of the multipoint inspection: how much tread is left on my tires, how many millimeters of my brake pad remains, the condition of the belts, how the rear suspension looks, whether they see leaks in the transmission or engine, and more. Even though I’m relying on them to tell me what looks good and what needs attention at that moment, being able to see everything with my own eyes as they walk me through it me helps me feel like an informed partner in the process and reinforces their message.

Are you behind the curve?
Back in 1991, I was plugging that Polaroid because intraoral cameras were still very expensive. I’d say the modern equivalent in the “would be nice to have, but I can’t bring myself to bite the bullet yet” category is 3D scanning and imaging; in that same February poll mentioned earlier, nearly 70% of Townies reported still relying on impression material, or had been using 3D scanners for less than two years.

This has quickly become technology that patients expect from a modern dental practice, so if you don’t offer it, they’ll seek out someone who does. Don’t give patients the wrong impression! (Impression ... get it?!) In addition, you should be promoting your use of such technology on your website and other marketing materials.

Thirty years later, the technology may have changed but the message is still the same: When you make your patients informed partners in their care, you’ll increase the odds of case acceptance.

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