Seeing the light

I feel privileged to be included in this new online venture. I look forward to working with Tom and the Preventive Dentistry team, sharing news, views and knowledge in the dental community.

Getting patients to listen to what we are telling them is one of the biggest challenges in our job. The frustration of seeing the same picture of inflammation and plaque at recall appointments sometimes makes us feel like giving up. We don’t like to be viewed as constantly exhorting them to do what they clearly don’t want to do, after all it is their choice and as educators we merely have to make sure they know all the risks in making their decision to ignore our advice.

It’s my belief that people have to be in the right place mentally before they can take in and apply what is being said to them, and until they reach that place we have to accept there will be little improvement.

I’m sure you can all find instances when you were too pre-occupied with other things, not thinking clearly or simply not ready to see. It happened to me recently regarding an aspect of my finances. I know I’ve been told before but I didn’t understand what was being said. Suddenly I’m acting upon the advice because for some reason I’m now able to process and see the reasoning behind it.

Last year a long-standing perio patient presented with no improvement in his OH. My notes told me I’d been through everything in detail on previous visits and I was tempted to say nothing, but something prompted me to try again. I showed him his x-rays and the bone levels, mentioned the words ‘periodontal disease’ and, to my utter surprise, he began asking questions, saying he didn’t know he had that and what should he do? Grasping the last vestiges of patience I explained again as if it was the first time, and now he’s a changed man – receptive, motivated and happy with his healthier mouth.

With patients we have to be prepared to keep saying the same thing, albeit in different ways, in the hope that one day they will suddenly embrace the concept and see the wisdom behind it. That’s the complexities of human nature for you! But surely one of the reasons we do this job is for just these ‘seeing the light’ moments.

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