I asked a hygiene patient if he was flossing. He immediately said that, yes, he was. So I asked him why there was so much blood on his face. He shrugged.
How many times do we give patients instructions only to find they are not doing the task correctly? This problem isn’t restricted to oral hygiene. Medical offices see similar issues.
Some of the things we ask patients to do require instruction…then feedback. It also requires the patient to practice until it becomes a habit. But if they do it wrong…they will always do it wrong.
That is why we have to check for mastery.
This message was hammered home to me during a recent Yoga class. My teacher pointed out how if we do a posture wrong, we will continue to do it wrong…forever. The technique must be corrected early…then the practice begins.
That’s why they call it practice. Dentists rarely practice. For them it’s always game time. Back in school we practiced our preps and we practiced suturing…but later on we take it right to the stage. If we get it wrong we rarely get better…in order to get better it takes a lot of desire, humility and vulnerability.
Remember the saying, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions?”
Let’s get back to patients. I gave my hygiene patient the floss dispenser. He grabbed six inches and then it was all elbows. We took the time to show him…and next week we’ll check him…check him for mastery.
Later on that morning I saw an elderly patient who had a lower partial denture made one week prior. I asked her how it felt…she said fine.
I asked her to put it in (wondering why it wasn’t in), and she took it out of her bag…and then those elbows started to go to work. I had to stop her because the frustration was too much to bear.
Once again I thought of how many partials and appliances are inserted without thoroughly going over things we take for granted. How many meds are given? How many wounds are dressed? How many catheters placed?
Teaching takes time…learning takes more time. It was John Wooden who said, “You haven’t taught it until they have learned it.”
I have been writing and speaking about relationship based dentistry for years—this is another example why I feel it’s the only way to practice. Dental practices that value people over production get this.