Better Patient Histories

By  IRVING TULKIN, D. D. S. New York City

            The first contact the dentist or his secretary makes with the prospective patient is nearly always the most important.

Dental treatment must be related with general health, dental history, temperament, physical requirements, occupation, age and general welfare of the patient.

Treatment that does not make a patient healthier and happier is not worth anything.

The dentist, once he undertakes to treat a patient is morally and legally responsible for all the expressed and implied considerations of his patient’s dental welfare.

A better and more complete history should aid the dentist to

  1. better consider his patient’s welfare.
  2. better relate his treatment with the patient’s medical needs.
  3. better overcome, by education, past dental prejudices and fears.
  4. better provide for possible unfavorable results following treatment.
  5. better plan the education of the patient’s dental consciousness (a good patient can only be one who appreciates the value of dentistry as much as we do).
  6. better provide for future home care, diet, and periodic check up.
  7. better provide for relief of possible tension or fear of fee, office routine, and pain.
  8. better obtain information on patient’s need for consultation with his family pertaining to his dental treatment and payment for same.
  9. better show his patient that in his office a more complete service is rendered.

The information must be obtained tactfully and carefully. The outline is meant only to be a guide for the secretary of the dentist in questioning. As for how to obtain this, two important points must be remembered. For a person to open up and talk, he must be relaxed. We can’t hope to stand over him while he is in the dental chair and obtain a good history. If the patient is seated and comfortable and the dentist’s (or secretary’s) only purpose is to help the patient to obtain better treatment, the patient intuitively feels that the questioning is for his benefit. At any show of hesitancy the reason for any question such as age, occupation, etc., should frankly be explained. It will surprise one how much information that is not asked for will be forthcoming from this relaxed patient; how much closer he feels to the office and how much less such a patient will think of fee and material. The patient becomes interested in dental medicine and not dental mechanics only when his dentist is interested in it.

It is time that we stopped rushing our patient on to our chairs, running our mirror and explorer thru their mouth, taking a few X-rays and as a unit of the body and person. It can’t be done this way to the mutual benefit of patient and dentist.