Case presentation discusses diagnosis and treatment plans that a patient can understand

Case Presentation in Dentistry

     Case presentation is the communication of both the diagnosis and treatment plans in a manner a patient can understand so that they are able to personally chose what is best for them. The patient’s choice is usually determined by budget, time available for treatment, esthetic concerns, functional demands and overall tolerance of dental procedures.

     The dental student must be able to verbally and/or graphically explain different treatment plans to a patient in a manner easily understood by the patient. The choice of words used in conversation, including dental terminology, and graphics may need to vary tremendously from patient to patient. Keep your explanations short and sweet. Be empathetic and confident during the discussion.

      If you are explaining whether a patient should extract a tooth or have root canal therapy and a crown they will probably want to know for each procedure: how long will it take, what will it feel like during the procedure and afterwards, how much will it cost and how will chewing be affected. They do not want to learn the differences between files and reamers versus 150 and 151 forceps. Focus on the differences in the benefits of the procedures not the technicalities.

Treatment of the Dental Patient

     The focus of this text is not how to specifically treat patients. Instead we are focusing on the peripheral issues which are actually the major determinants of whether a patient will actually ever let you begin treatment.

     It is strongly suggested that you always endeavor to do your best work possible. It may sound corny but it is true especially after years in private practice when the idealism of dental school may be just a distant memory. As we age, and tire more easily, it may also become more difficult to always attempt to offer each patient one’s best work. In my own private practice I have continually added specialists and generalists as I find my interest in given procedures begin to wane. I feel that my patient’s deserve that; they recognize the efforts I undertake to see that the care they receive is always in their best interest. Yes, there is a significant extra cost associated with all the other dentists around but I believe that the patient’s appreciation of the extra effort goes a long way towards building and maintaining a reputation during a lifetime of private practice.

Reevaluation of the Dental Patient

     Reevaluation as described here refers to a recall visit where the main intent is to see the extent to which you have satisfied the patient’s chief complaint. If you have not, then you must discover what must be done to make the patient happy. If the patient is pleased that their chief complaint is satisfied, then it may be time to begin a comprehensive oral exam with the associated necessary records. This may also be initially accomplished during a prophy. The point of the reevaluation is therefore twofold: confirm satisfaction of the chief complaint and then begin more comprehensive care. The reevaluation visit itself, without making any records, should be a free visit.

     It is not unusual for a patient to want to take a break from dentistry at this point and want some quiet time away from the dental drill. This is completely understandable. If this is the patient’s wish then make sure you know when their last prophy date was and ask if they would like to be reminded by you to come in at the six month cycle for a cleaning. You want to get a patient cognizant of being part of some recall cycle and even ask for their input. Avoid being pushy. Be informative and inquisitive about their individual desires.