When scheduling a new patient exam, there are often a number of questions that the front office staff will ask you. We’ve discussed the importance of these questions in a previous blog post, as well as the benefit of answering them honestly. However, I want to revisit the topic of the new patient exam, particularly the goal of this exam and the value in scheduling the correct appointment.
To paraphrase Pete Dawson of the Dawson Academy for continuing dental education, the goal of the new patient exam is so that every problem can be seen and understood then clarify the implications of not treating the problems in a timely manner.
When scheduling your first appointment, there are two options– a new patient exam or a cursory exam. Determining which is right for you is ultimately decided based on the answers to your screening questions.
However, despite our staffs’ recommendation, many people still hesitate to schedule the longer new patient exam.
Let me start by saying, if you schedule a new patient exam and your needs only warrant a shorter cursory exam, you will not be charged for the full exam. This is an honest concern for people who are scheduling their first appointment with a new practice. On the other hand, if you schedule a cursory exam and your needs exceed the time allotted with the dentist, we will give you the option to reschedule.
The Goal of the New Patient Exam
To paraphrase Pete Dawson of the Dawson Academy for continuing education, the goal of the new patient exam is so that every problem can be seen and understood then clarify the implications of not treating the problems in a timely manner.
It is for this reason that scheduling the correct exam is so important to improving your oral health. For new patients, the goal of the exam is not just to get your teeth cleaned, but to make sure that they are sustainable and not in a state of breakdown.
For those people who have had more complex dentistry in the past – implants, bridges, root canals and periodontal surgery – a full exam will certainly be beneficial to ensure that dentist has enough time to develop a strategy for sustainable dental health.
In that type of a relationship the dentist is acting as the advocate for the patient. If it’s not we aren’t going to get to that goal of your teeth outliving you.
The goal is, once we establish a relationship – 10-15 years from now you should be in a better state of health than when I first saw them. You are in a lot more control of the “aging” of your teeth. These will not wrinkle and fade like other body parts. The practice is also designed to be two steps ahead of the teeth. The value is going to be there long-term.
It’s like a financial planner – they are trying to make your money outlive you. Show photos of situations of people who need a full exam or a cursory exam. If you come in for a full exam and only need a 30-minute exam, we will not charge you for that. Err on the side of caution. This is your health.
Photos of a healthy mouth or someone who is a younger and someone who is older. You shouldn’t be able to look at the photo and guess what someone’s age is. Your teeth shouldn’t get worse with age. This patient is XX years and have been able to maintain teeth that are like those of a 30 year old. But you also have a case where this person is biologically 30, but their dental age is in their 70s.
The other photos – a situation where someone cones in for a cleaning but I have to explain to them their dental situation. They think they need a cleaning, but they’ve been in a state of breakdown over the last 20 years of care. I can only tell you what I see and tell you what is going on, with no judgment on their previous dentist.
Showing the situations where we created health. Where they started in a state of breakdown and then 10 years down the road they look better than they did before.
If your insurance doesn’t cover it here, it wont cover it anywhere. This is a big barrier of entry.