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