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Talking to patients

Communication is part of the cure

For patients, an edentulous area is a “gap;” the word “bone” makes people feel uncomfortable; and the word “surgery” in the context of dentistry creates confusion. What is important when explaining a dental treatment to patients?


Dr. Rossini, what is the key in gaining the patients’ long-term confidence?

Dr. M. Rossini: Certainly, consistency is. It is hard to do all the time, but essential. Our work is based on human and interpersonal contact. Our patients are people who rely on us in an uncomfortable environment and in situations of suffering. The only way we have to deal with this condition in the long run is the confidence that we can inspire. Consistency between what we say, what we do and who we are is the most effective way to build confidence.

How important are the patients’ wishes? How do you interpret them correctly?

Dr. F. Rossini: We are talking about people, not patients; they are like us and have desires, expectations and ideas very similar to those that we would have in the same situation. The focus is on the experience and the relationship with the person. Therefore, good observation and active listening skills are helpful.

We should analyze personal data to find out whether our patients are young or old, married or single, of low, medium, or high education, as well as what type of work they do, how far they have to travel to reach the practice, and much more. These analyses provide valuable guidance for establishing communication.

In a nutshell, how does your first meeting with the patient go? And how many people accept your treatment proposal?

Dr. F. Rossini: I ask 100 questions to understand the patient’s needs. Then I have an in-depth consultation between surgeon, prosthodontist and orthodontist. We know we must all take the time to evaluate the best solution. Our motto is: “one month to decide, one day to do.” The patients like the idea that we do not rush things, that we consider their quality of life during treatment, and that we manage the discomfort that can accompany extensive treatment plans. The treatment acceptance rate is high, around 85 %, and even higher if we take advantage of digital pre-visualization technologies.

What does this mean? How do you explain a treatment to the patient?

Dr. M. Rossini: The words and images should be simple and immediate. Technical explanations need to be given, but at the appropriate time and not before you have created a relationship with the patient and, completely understand their needs and expectations.

We did a survey on the terms used with patients: for example, an edentulous area is and should always remain a “gap;” the word “bone” makes people feel uncomfortable; and the word “surgery” creates confusion in the context of dentistry – we are, for our patients, always and only dentists!

Do you have key words that you use?

Dr. F. Rossini: I think that metaphors provide good imagery. For example: no one would consider building anything designed to last on an unsound foundation. It is important that the whole team shares an agreed upon and consistent message, from the surgeon to the prosthodontist. Safety, durability, strength and efficiency are commonly understood and shared concepts. I prefer those expressions over technical terms such as ”preservation of the alveolar ridge.”

Interview by Dr. Laura Fedrizzi

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