The Chairside Instructor: a valuable resource

Explaining dental procedures in an understandable way to patients can be trying at times. During treatment planning appointments I often find myself talking to a patient that appears completely lost. I try to search Google to find the perfect image to depict what I am talking about.  Many times I am unable to find that image. Searching the internet can be time-consuming and fruitless. Discussing treatment options with patients can be increasingly difficult for dental students entering the clinic. The difficulty lies in the details. As students, we spend years learning fancy vocabulary that oral health professionals understand. Simplifying treatment to aid in patient understanding can be challenging for even the most experienced dentists. However, there are resources available that can aid in conversations with patients about common dental procedures. An example of a helpful patient education resource is “The Chairside Instructor- A Visual Guide to Case Presentations” published by the ADA.

“The Chairside Instructor” is a well-organized visual guide that can aid in case presentations to patients. The guide is broken down into eight sections with tabs that make finding information efficient than search engines. The first section covered is oral anatomy. It provides useful diagrams, checklists and images of structures within the oral cavity. Reviewing these details with the patient during examinations can lead to improved self-reporting of pathology. The next section covers prevention and diagnosis of dental disease. The section begins with a bar graph from the United States Department of Agriculture showing sugar content in common beverages. The graph can help patients realize the amount of sugar they consume and its relation to oral health as they may not be aware of the amount of sugar they are consuming. This simple graph can help foster conversations about diet change. Included in the discussion of prevention are ways to control plaque and images of proper brushing and flossing technique. After hygiene and preventative measures such as sealants are covered, a description of gum disease follows.

The Instructor proves to be an effective tool to educate patients about gum disease. Through pictures, it provides an easy-to-follow section about the stages, progression, treatment and maintenance of gum disease. The comparison of pre- and post-treatment photos can help patients see the difference care can make. The Instructor even explains more advanced periodontal procedures including osseous surgeries, gingival grafts and bone grafting. I believe this section is one of the most important because it shows the progression of the disease. It provides figures explaining scaling and root planning, giving patients a clearer understanding of treatment.

Following the gum disease section is an explanation of tooth decay. The Instructor covers the etiology, progression and potential complications of tooth decay. I believe the greatest benefit is showing a patient the steps to a filling. Explaining step-by-step with images can help alleviate dental anxiety because the patient is better informed. Moving forward in the guide are explanations of common restorative procedures like inlays, onlays, crowns, bridges and root canals. The images present in The Instructor accurately and effectively describe each procedure. Overviews of procedures associated with replacing missing teeth are also discussed. The brief overviews can help patients decide between a partial denture or an implant. The closing sections of The Instructor discuss orthodontics, cosmetic options and other oral conditions. Some of the oral conditions covered include erosion, third molars, temporomandibular disorders, cracked teeth and bruxism. Now in its eleventh edition, “The Chairside Instructor” also includes a description of the effects of tobacco on oral health.

As dental students, it can be difficult to explain treatment options, procedures and importance of oral health to patients. “The Chairside Instructor” can help to explain those treatments and procedures to patients in a simple, easy-to-follow manner. It can save time by not having to Google search to find the perfect image. I believe that anything that can help improve patient understanding of their oral condition is worth using. “The Chairside Instructor” will prove to be a valuable educational resource for dental students, recent graduates and practicing dentists. It is a helpful resource that can be used with every patient to provide better-informed consent.

Want to win your own “The Chairside Instructor” mobile app? Comment in the section below with your favorite dental app that you use as a clinical resource and why. Our 10 favorite comments will win a free download of “The Chairside Instructor” mobile app (for Apple devices only).

Contest closes September 15, 2017.

~Jerad Servais, Minnesota ’18, electronic editor

About Jerad Servais

Jerad Servais is a fourth-year dental student at the University of Minnesota school of dentistry. When he is not performing duties as an electronic editor for ASDA he enjoys spending time with his wife, family and friends.


Comments (13)

  1. Andy Larkin

    Epocrates! A free and comprehensive app to keep all things pharmacology in reach. Includes medications listed by class, brand and generic names, various dosages and drug interactions, as well as current guidelines for use.

  2. Brennan Stringam

    Dental Patient Education by 3D 4Medical. Very simple to use and designed with the patient in mind. I’ve loved 3D 4Medical’s products is the past and used their Essential Anatomy app way too frequently during anatomy courses. Dental Patient Education is formatted with simple language and great graphics which provide a rich experience for the patient and the doctor.

  3. Steven Thrap

    The Dental Spanish Guide app certainly comes in handy when trying to discuss dental terms with patients whose first language is Spanish. Not sure what other schools’ patient population looks like, but we see a good number of Hispanic patients of which many would prefer to converse in Spanish.

  4. Laura Hibbard

    So many good apps:

    Voice Translate ( is awesome because you can speak into your phone’s microphone in one language and your phone will speak and write out the translation for your patient in your language of choice. They can speak back to you also.

    Wunderlist ( is my life saver every day. Whenever I have something that needs to be done for a patient (get a treatment plan approved, make a custom tray, call them to schedule their recall, submit a prior authorization ect…), I make it a to-do item with a deadline just before their next appointment. This way I never accidentally show up to their appointment empty handed; and it gives me a direction my downtime in clinic because I can tackle my to-do list by earliest deadline. The tasks also sync with google calendar which is perfect because that is where I keep my daily patient schedule.

    Evernote ( I made summary documents for most clinical topics or details that I assumed I would forget when I was in didactic courses. I’ve also added notes whenever we receive an e-mail from school that is clinically relevant (faculty schedules, lab turnaround times) ect.. Then every question I might need an answer quickly when working with a patient it is only a few seconds away. Evernote searches text notes and PDFs seamlessly. I also keep my clinical progress note templates here to save time.

    CT Vox: This app combined with the root canal anatomy data here: was a great tool when I was starting in clinic and thought that every little bit of darker shade in my prep could potential be the pulp. After being able to slice 3D images through the average anatomy for each tooth I became much more comfortable with restorative and endodontic therapy.

    Dentaltown ( ) to view the cases and threads on the message boards when there is downtime

  5. Jun Ko

    Thank you for sharing your insight into The Chairside Instructor!

    “Canopy Speak” is an incredibly helpful app that I use regularly for my patients who are non-English speakers. It not only supports 15 different languages but also comes preloaded with most commonly used phrases per situation which can drastically save time (no need to type and translate). Under Dentistry, phrases are divided into such categories as Greeting&Goodbye, Dental History, Dental Exam, X-Rays, Procedures, Assessment&Plan, etc. It’s a very powerful tool that you can utilize as a provider. I highly recommend you checking it out!

  6. Priscila Quito

    My favorite dental app is “Dental Drugs.” I love using it, especially being a third year, because it has different types of common drugs used in the dental field from antibiotics to antianxiety and pediatric dentistry medications. Within each medication it tells the indications, the dose, instructions on how to take it, precautions, and additional notes. Apart, from having a medications tab, the app also provides the list of dental anesthetics, what to do in case of an emergency (i.e. angina, asthma), and some treatment protocols (i.e. dry socket, angular cheilitis). Last but not least, it has a sample medical prescription as a reference. I would highly recommend this app!

  7. Ashtin Alves

    The Lexi-Dental Complete App!! I LOVE being able to use Lexi-Comp on the computers while in clinic, however when I volunteer in the community the App is everything! Patients might come in saying they take medications and I have limited time and resources, so I just whip out my cell (or give it to the eager pre-dental student shadowing us) and look up the medication to see what dental side effects it has, if any! I’ve been using the free trial for now, so any additional resources to help me, help my patients would be greatly appreciated!!

  8. Hilary Wong

    Dental – Lite -because it shows each anatomy of each teeth clearly, so patients can visualize the tooth of interest that the physician is talking about.

  9. Neil

    I enjoy using “Dental Town” because there is a great community of dentists that help make a sometimes isolating profession feel less daunting. It’s easy to comb through all the existing topics and find tons of useful tips — for example best ways and techniques for doing a certain type of filling. Or, you can create a post of your own, and the feedback is always pretty prompt and quality advice as well. It’s a great resource for the newly graduated dentist!

  10. Eric

    I personally enjoy having something to fall back or refer back to when prescribing drugs so I like the app “dental drugs.” Its a quick resource to look up drug info, especially if the patient is already in the chair and you cannot remember the MOA, dosing, etc.