Need more time? Just use it wisely! Mark Allen General Manager at COLTENE

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  Posted by: Dental Design      8th September 2019

Ensuring that you have enough time with your patients is more than just a clinical requirement. Their overall experience will be based on a variety of factors, with a good, stable treatment result being just one. The amount of qualitytime given to their treatment – pre, during and post – is essential for positive patient outcomes.

A survey published last summer indicated that dentists working within the NHS were far less happy with how much time they have to manage patient expectations than those working in private practice.[i]An unsurprising result perhaps, but the golden rule of quality over quantity should always be applied.

Taking time to build a rapport – a harmonious patient/practitioner relationship, not one where the patient feels patronised – is so important. A good rapport and open, positive communication will enable them to feel fully informed and that they are being treated with respect and compassion, not as ‘just’ another case in the chair.

Time given to develop and maintain a good patient/practitioner relationship is time well spent. A good relationship will aid compliance, can help prevent ‘defensive’ dentistry and reduce the risk of an unhappy patient making a complaint. The threat of complaints and litigation is a huge concern for dentists, with more choosing to refer out certain cases because they are worried that they won’t be able to complete treatment to a patient’s satisfaction.[ii]

The road to a patient complaint will often begin with poor communication. Informed consent, that was based on a frank conversation about the risks involved, as well as how much time and money a patient will need to commit, is key, which takes us back to howyou use the time you have with them. There are lots of things that dentists can do to enrich patient conversations, to ensure that these are dialogues and not one-sided. Be mindful of your body language and listen as much as you talk. Use visual aids to help. Digital technology is a fantastic time saver and supports positive communication, because it allows patients to see more and understand their diagnosis – and the reasons for their treatment plan – better. Being presented with the same information that you have should allow them to feel comfortable enough to ask questions. Listen carefully and don’t interrupt, even if you have to go through the same instructions several times.

Expectations and commitment

Quality time with your patients also allows you to assure them that although you are highly competent and confident, their co-operation is essential for a successful outcome. This is particularly important when carrying out procedures that come with the baggage of bad press – the words no patient wants to hear are “root canal” and endodontic treatment is behind around a quarter of complaints to the DDU.[iii]

Endodontic therapy is a good example of the importance of using the time you have with your patients productively, even if it is not as much as you would like. Root canal therapy may have a bad press, but the chances of success are high and it can be carried out quickly, too. As well as the time-saving benefits of digital scanning, look for tools that allow you to carry out an efficient procedure. For a high-performance, yet efficient file solution, the HyFlex EDM™ system from COLTENE covers all bases, from the HyFlex™ EDM 20/.05 preparation file tofiles for Glidepath management. Less files are needed, meaning more efficient (and cost-effective) treatment delivery. Cases that may normally have needed two separate appointments may even be wrapped up in one.

Quality time will give patients all the information they need to help ensure that their endodontic treatment has the best chance of success. Positive patient conversations also lead directly to good note taking. Should endodontic treatment fail, for reasons that were out of your direct control (patient behaviour, the complex anatomy of teeth) your notes can form the basis of an explanation and subsequent remedy. Using your notes, there will hopefully be an opportunity to get the treatment plan – and the patient/practitioner relationship – back on track, avoiding a compliant.

Time does not have to be the enemy of dentistry! With good time management, even highly technical procedures like endodontic therapy, can be completed quickly andsuccessfully. This means spending time to communicate and build a rapport, to take good notes and to use tools, equipment and materials that facilitate fast treatment. Patients will leave your practice feeling they have been treated with care and compassion, having had an all-round positive experience, with their expectations managed.


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[i]The NHS Confidence Monitor Survey. Published by Practice Plan. Link: June 2019).

[ii]Nine out of 10 dentists fear being sued by their patients., 17 October 2018. Link: June 2019).

[iii]Pulp fact – looking inside endodontic claims. DDU Journal, Spring 2019 issue. Link:—looking-inside-endodontic-claims(accessed June 2019).


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