Spring is coming…very slowly, but they tell me it’s on its way. With spring comes baseball and lots of sunshine and fresh air. I can’t wait. I admire Major League baseball players for their skills and their devotion to mastering a very difficult sport. Most ballplayers start early by learning to hit the ball.
They say that most ballplayers can hit a fastball, and what separates the average hitter from the very best is the ability to hit the curve-ball…or the slider…or any off-speed pitch.
It’s the same with dentists. Most can hit the fastball…the low hanging fruit, but only the best can hit the off-speed stuff. Major League dentistry is mostly curve-balls – from tough technical cases to tough patients, if you want to succeed in dentistry these days you must hit the curve ball.
Like learning anything it all starts with the fundamentals – hitting the fastball until proficiency develops and then adjusting to circumstances. Just like driving a car…paying conscious attention to every detail until driving becomes automatic.
That’s why I get concerned when dentists ask me if I recommend doing a comprehensive examination on every patient. I never flinch—my answer is always “yes.”I wrote that 10 years ago in The Art of Examination, and my reasoning holds true today, even though the business of dentistry has changed.
The comprehensive examination is the fastball. It must be mastered before it can be altered. If you watched me bring patients into my practice you might question “how” I do that…you might say it doesn’t look like what I wrote…but it is.
I have earned the right to alter it by doing thousands of exams-and if you really watch, they may all look a little different, but I accomplish everything I need…nothing gets left out…I just adjust for the various curves the each patient shows.
My examination process, at this point, is a habit. It’s automatic. That is the biggest reason I tell dentists to do the exam on every patient…so it becomes a habit…for them and the staff.
When everyone is on the same page, the examination process becomes the culture of the practice.
The collective mind of dentistry has devalued the examination process…and that’s a big problem today.
Dentistry has changed and dentists meet all kinds of resistance everyday. Creating alternate treatment plans, and completing treatment over time are acceptable ways to help patients accomplish their goals. As I said before the examination is your best opportunity to get to know and understand your patient. The goal doesn’t have to be to “sell” them all the dentistry you can…the goal is to know and understand how you can help them…now, and in the future.
It’s worth the time investment…I guarantee it. It’s a win-win.
The examination is the source of all meaningful dentistry. If I have learned one thing in forty years of practice it’s that no two patients are the same. They come to you with different needs and circumstances. Your job is to figure out the puzzle—the dental puzzle and the human puzzle. Patients are the curve-balls and we must learn how to adjust.