While essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, some view brushing their teeth as another daily, monotonous task. They go through the motions without realizing the real reasons why. Because poor oral hygiene can lead to other health issues later down the road, dental health professionals have the opportunity to educate their patients on their oral health care status and provide tips for proper dental care.
In the world of dentistry, attention to detail is a quality that separates good dentists from great ones. From personal experience with using microscopes and intraoral cameras for over 20 years, I’ve learned that the use of video and photography is an ideal way to achieve that attention to detail.
Videos are an ideal tool for educating, instructing, and conveying information to the public. So, why shouldn’t dentists use this learning tool in the office? Most dentists use some form of magnification to treat their patients, such as microscopes or loupes. They use intraoral cameras or digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras to capture patient footage for explanation, but, often, a still photo does not give an adequate explanation. X-rays are another alternative for explaining the patient’s current condition but are difficult for the untrained eye to comprehend, leaving patients confused or skeptical.
Once captured, patient footage can then be displayed on the monitors, allowing dentists to conveniently review a procedure or exam with their patients. This is particularly helpful when the patient is overwhelmed by what is going on in their mouth. Many procedures can be staggered over time and the video will remind them about the need for treatment. Videos can be viewed in real-time, paused and rewound when patients have questions, and can easily be archived for future reference to show how their oral health has improved over time.
A former patient of mine used to floss too aggressively, creating several 2-3 mm cuts in her gums around the sides of her teeth. Through the use of video education, she now understands the proper flossing techniques. Her cuts have healed, however, they have left areas where food and plaque can build up. Should her previous dentist have used video to show the effects of aggressive flossing, this situation may have been prevented.
Dentists often ask me how much time is involved with recording a patient’s mouth. While it varies from patient to patient, my recommendation is as much time as is needed for the patient to see the footage and fully understand their current situation. The goal is to effectively provide insight into their oral health—plaque, cracks, cavities, or brushing patterns—so that they may walk away confidently knowing what action needs to take place. Video is highly effective for convincing patients that these conditions exist and need to be treated before they worsen and require expensive and extensive treatment.
For new patients, I typically spend 10 minutes recording their consultations and an additional 10 minutes explaining any issues and addressing any concerns. This is an eye-opening experience for most. And because they are in a teachable state, they are interested in learning how they can improve their oral health. I am able to communicate verbally with my hygienists and we create a custom-made plan for each patient to follow daily before their next cleaning.
A thorough video created during the new patient consultation allows the hygienists and the patient to remember the specific problems that have been treated during the initial visit within the patient’s mouth. This highly personalized care creates better patient compliance and responsibility. With the advent of a video toothbrush, the patient will be able to see the specific spots that need more care and use the custom attachments suggested by the dental professionals to keep the areas in their mouth clean. They can take a clear 10mp photo and keep it on their smartphone, and weeks later compare it to a new image to see the progress. This strategy allows patients to efficiently clean their teeth as well as know what they are doing and why.
Not only does video help patients clearly understand their dental health status, but it improves the relationship they develop with their dentist. When a dental professional takes the extra time to film and review procedures, patients recognize this and build a level of trust knowing that their dentist is truly willing to educate and help them with any problem areas. When patients can see the places they are missing or the areas they are over brushing, they become empowered to take action and make these corrections.
The more satisfied new patients are, the more likely they are to remain with your practice. In the end, high loyalty saves money because less is spent on marketing and incentives. In addition, satisfied patients often share their experiences with friends, family, and colleagues, thus driving additional business to your practice.
Video cameras are not only an effective learning and training tool in dentistry, but are effective across all industries. In addition to providing insight and guidance, videos also help build positive relationships, in this case, between dentist and patient, allowing the patient to feel empowered to make a lifelong change in their daily routine that will ultimately lead to a healthier lifestyle.