“Hey – I heard flossing doesn’t do anything!”

You are probably aware that last week the latest dietary guidelines issued by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services quietly and without notice dropped any mention of flossing . At the same time, The Associated Press reported that officials had never researched the effectiveness of regular flossing, as required, before cajoling Americans to do it.

Chances are your patients don’t read anything printed by the Department of Agriculture, but they certainly watch The Today Show and all of the other “light news” outlets that seem to delight in reporting the story. After all – everyone likes to think that their hocking hygienist was wrong all along.

This is just what we need – one more reason to get people not to floss!

A close look shows they are not saying flossing is not effective; just that there have never been any really good studies on the subject. But although this is anecdotal – as dental professionals we see first-hand the benefits of flossing every single day!

So how will you answer the inevitable question:

“Hey Doc! I heard that flossing doesn’t do anything! Do I even need to do it?”

Try something like this:

“Well Melvin, every day in this office we see that flossing does a great job in helping to prevent gum disease, and gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults. There is no question that flossing removes plaque and debris lodged between your teeth, and that is certainly good for your overall health.

It’s kind of like showering every day. There may not be any great studies showing that it’s good for you, but it should be part of your hygiene routine – and flossing should too! All of us do it, and we still highly recommend that you do too!”

Or you could just say:

“No problem – don’t floss. May we set up your denture appointment?”

Other People’s Conversations

Do you ever overhear a totally ridiculous dental conversation – one where you just want to run over to the person speaking and punch them? Even though we are very non-violent, it seems to happen all the time. Here is a conversation that was actually overheard at our local diner last week. (In Madow vernacular, overhearing someone else’s conversation is called OPC’ing.)

Ignoramus A: “Yeah – I went to the dentist yesterday. He totally ripped me off. Don’t even know why he needed an x-ray, the filling was just on the top of the tooth.”

Ignoramus B: “Well, they gotta make as much money as they can. Those x-rays are a scam.”

Ignoramus A: “And all of that money goes right into his pocket. That hygienist probably rents space from him and pays him even more.”

Ignoramus B: “My dentist tried to get me for a root canal last year. I told him just to pull it. I’m not paying for that guy’s fancy car.”

And on and on. We’ve all heard this stuff many times! But as wrong as these people are, we suspect that some of these conversations could be avoided if the doctor or assistant took a little more time to give a meaningful and easy to understand explanation for everything that was being done. For example, instead of just saying:

“Please open a little wider so we can ram this uncomfortable plastic x-ray holder with a knife edge on the bottom down your throat,”

Try something like…

“Since this tooth has a cavity, there is even a greater chance that there is more decay on a side surface that we can’t see or touch. This quick little x-ray will show us the entire tooth so that we can do this filling right the first time and make sure all of the decay is removed.”

And then….

“Great news! The x-ray has shown us that the decay is limited to just the top surface. That means you won’t need a large filling or a crown!”

Now is this person ever going to complain to their friend about the money-grubbing dentist taking unnecessary x-rays? Possibly, but the chances are much lower!

Bottom line – always remember that what is totally routine to us could be a new and possibly frightening situation to the patient. Always take a few extra seconds to let them know exactly what is going on and why. It pays off big time!!!

Are You Guilty Of This?

As we travel around the country speaking to fantastic groups such as the American Academy of Dental Group Practice in Las Vegas last week, we often notice something that frankly really stinks.

You see, over the last twenty-two years we have been up-close and personal with many dentists and team members. And it’s amazing how many of them have downright rotten breath!

Whether it is from pungent foods, coffee, dehydration, or amazingly, perio disease – it seems like we have seen (and smelled) it all.

Of course we realize that everyone has occasional bad breath, body odor, or other personal maladies. But there is simply no place for that in the dental office.

Your dental co-workers are like your extended family. And everyone must agree that it is our job to alert our fellow team members (doctors included) about things such as bad breath, unsightly boogers, unzipped flies or other wardrobe malfunctions, food on face, eye or ear bunnies – okay, no need to gross you out – you get the picture by now.

It really is important, and all of that stuff reflects on your office and perceived ability to provide high quality dental care. So make a pact that instead of being offended, we will all thank a fellow team member when they say to us

“Your breath smells like freshly ground horse manure, there is something weird in your nose, and plaids and stripes don’t match.”

Actually, it should be said with kindness and caring and received that way as well. It’s all part of being on the team!!

But if you are afraid of insulting a chronic offender in your office, simply print this email out and discreetly place it somewhere where they will see it. You can even use a highlighter if there is a specific condition you wish to point out!