Your Patients Want to Know You Are Thinking of Them During the Holidays

November 16, 2021 Deborah Bush, MA

When leaves are turning red and yellow and grasses are turning shades of pink and brown, most of us start anticipating the coming holidays. It’s a season to list everything we still want to accomplish by the end of the year…and it’s also a time to think more about others.

Not everyone experiences happiness during the holidays.

It would be wonderful and remarkable if every patient in your dental practice has fond memories of the holidays and has family and friends with whom they celebrate. But proactively working year around to know your patients has provided you with glimpses into what your patients really might be feeling.

Getting to know each patient has revealed recent losses…a spouse, parent, son, or daughter. It has revealed the emotional impact of divorce, job loss, the chronic stress of work or caregiving, and then, there are a multitude of worrisome health problems.

An idea for uplifting these special patients: Mass-printed holiday greeting cards can be turned into something special that touches these patients on a deep level. Some effort needs to go into personalizing the cards with handwritten messages but the message can be as simple as, “We want you to know that we are thinking of you during this holiday season. You are someone we admire and care about.” That special touch…a small act of kind outreach can make a beautiful, memorable impression on special individuals you have come to know, think about, and may be praying for.

The entire practice team can help in listing the few dozens of patients who would benefit most from personal notes. Everyone can pitch in to write messages. Everyone can sign the cards. Social wellbeing among your team members will be elevated by creating an open afternoon on the schedule to do this as a “family” of compassionate caregivers. Add lunch or snacks to make it a team party.

Tip for a Thriving Team from Gallup’s Wellbeing at Work: Operationalize your mission. You will clearly communicate your mission of genuinely caring for patients when you demonstrate to your team that you do care by investing personal effort. Doctors, this means writing personalized messages right alongside your team—and with enthusiasm.

Many patients become hyper busy during the holidays.

Cancellations and lateness occur more frequently in December. Despite best intentions of keeping their dental appointments, some patients overbook and overextend themselves. My personal thoughts are to be patient with them and do four things.

1. If your practice is large with many patients coming through your door daily, it may not be your regular practice to make confirmation phone calls. In December, make the extra effort to follow up text messages with personal phone calls. Have team members organized to make as many calls as possible.

2. Build value for December appointments via a Happy Holidays newsletter that sparks enthusiasm for your practice. Include a digital photo of the holiday decorations in your reception area and remind your December patients that you look forward to wishing them Happy Holidays in person.

Here’s an idea: What if you were to put together oral health care gift bags for a local group home or shelter and communicate to your patients that those coming in for appointments in December will have the opportunity to put their name on a card in a gift bag? You would spread community awareness, the spirit of health, and giving back to your community as a wider dental family.

3. Update your wait list of patients who might come in on short notice. Have those names and numbers at the ready.

4. When open time occurs in your schedule, have a mindset of gratitude: “Wow, I guess we won’t feel so pushed today. We didn’t expect we would have this time to breath and catch up a little.”

Your patients want to know what to do if they have a dental problem over the holidays.

Have a clear plan that you and your team members can engage around to respond when patients have emergency or urgent needs over the holidays. Tell your patients via your media (recorded phone message, newsletter, Facebook page, website blog, etc.) what to do if a dental problem occurs. Clear communication from you tells them that you are thinking of them and want to make it easier for them to manage life’s exigencies…even during the holidays.

Here’s to a season of doing our best and thinking of others!

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About Author

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Deborah Bush, MA

Deb Bush is a freelance writer specializing in dentistry and a subject matter expert on the behavioral and technological changes occurring in dentistry. Before becoming a dental-focused freelance writer and analyst, she served as the Communications Manager for The Pankey Institute, the Communications Director and a grant writer for the national Preeclampsia Foundation, and the Content Manager for Patient Prism. She has co-authored and ghost-written books for dental authorities, and she currently writes for multiple dental brands which keeps her thumb on the pulse of trends in the industry.

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My Journey in Dental Ethics – Inspiration

November 4, 2021 Larry Cook, DMD, MSHCE, FACD

Excerpt from an essay first published in the Journal of the American College of Dentists, Fall 2011

The introduction to dental ethics and professionalism began very early in my dental career. Upon graduation from the University of Florida College of Dentistry in December of 1979, I was fortunate to receive a few awards and honors. One was a full scholarship to the L.D. Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education in Miami, Florida, to attend the institute’s beginning course, Continuum I. Pankey’s goal in offering scholarships to recent dental graduates had the intention of attempting to “catch them early” in their dental career and provide solid fundamental concepts of clinical dentistry and practice administration, as well as life and practice philosophy.

In the summer of 1980, only a few months out of dental school, I attended the institute for the first time. During my C-I week, my class and I were honored to listen to two presentations by Dr. L.D. Pankey. One of Dr. Pankey’s presentations concerned creating life balance as a dentist and the ethical practice of dentistry. In his lecture he offered his definition of what a professional, particularly one in the healthcare professions, should be.

Dr. Pankey’s definition of a professional was “an individual who possesses a specialized body of knowledge and skill, and who chooses to use that knowledge and skill for the benefit of another individual, prior to self-interest.” When Dr. Pankey said that the professional dentist “ought” to provide service to those they served prior to self-interest, he really hit me between the eyes. This challenge caused me more than ever to consider the reasons I had pursued a career in the profession of dentistry.

In my introspection, I had to admit that almost every reason I had for seeking a dental career had to do with my perception of what becoming a dentist could do for my family and me. Factors such as, personal income, community respect, self-esteem, and continual learning were the primary reasons I could identify for seeking a career in dentistry. Dr. Pankey’s definition forced me to look again at my intentions at their very core as to service to those individuals who chose to give me the greatest of all professional gifts: trust.

This experience was my introduction to dental ethics and professionalism. The principle of service “prior to self-interest” remained on my mind and heart during my daily interactions with my patients. Clinical decisions for my patients began to focus on the two ethical questions that must be answered in all clinical decision making: What should we do? and Why should we do it?

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Larry Cook, DMD, MSHCE, FACD

Dr. Larry J. Cook practices dentistry in Marianna, FL, and at the time this essay was first published, he was the Ethics Chair of the Florida Section of the American College of Dentists. He achieved his DMD degree from the University of Florida College of Dentistry and Masters in Health Care Ethics (MSHCE) degree from Creighton University.

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Discussing the Topic of Anti-Inflammatory Foods with Patients

November 1, 2021 Lee Ann Brady DMD

Both periodontal disease and TMD are inflammatory disorders.

We have lots of dental patients who are suffering from the effects of inflammation, and one of the things we can do is help them look at inflammation not from just a local perspective but also from a systemic perspective. Our goal is to help them reduce inflammation where it occurs in the mouth and, also, throughout their bodies in general.

In addition to the first line dental treatments, we can work with our patients at higher risk to manage their general inflammatory response by advocating and discussing dietary changes. I have had great success with some patients by giving them nutritional guidelines.

I know some of you are “rolling your eyes” when you read this because you have had little impact on dietary changes. But we can throw it out there, and some of our patients will latch on to that information and try hard between their dental appointments to make a visible difference when we next see them. These are patients who want to be proactive, and this is something over which they can take control, much like the percentage of patients who accept fluoride varnish and implement the Sonicare devices we recommend.

We don’t need to hold ourselves out there as nutrition experts. We can explain that periodontal disease and TMD are inflammatory processes and one of the things we are learning today is that the foods we eat can increase or decrease inflammation in general. We can suggest this is something they could become curious about, do some internet research, and use the anti-inflammatory foods information they find to affect positive changes in their total health and the oral health issues we are observing.

I tell patients there are great books on anti-inflammatory diet guides and anti-inflammatory cookbooks on Amazon. Dr. Joel Fuhrman and the Forks Over Knives publications are two I mention. If you delve into reading on this topic yourself, you will find you can easily converse about the impact this reading has had on your own diet and the health of other patients.

Be as general in the information you provide or as specific as you are comfortable, but by starting this conversation with patients, you are doing your best to help them.

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About Author

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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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