Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS April 13, 2016
I learned something very important the other day.
I had the opportunity to attend a 2-day continuing education course this past weekend. The subject matter was enlightening, and the techniques I learned took me way outside of my box. All this was great. I love to be challenged. However, I learned one simple thing at the start of the seminar that was even more critical than all the material that was presented during the entire 12-hour program. I learned that I was not asking the most important question during my initial examination of my patient.
During my initial periodontal exam, I ask my patients questions about their medical and dental history and what is bothering their mouth. I review their medications and how they take care of their mouth. I explain what I see on their x-rays and how I will look in their mouth to determine what is going on. I describe how diet and lifestyle are critical components to their dental health and their overall health. I discuss things that they probably have never heard from any other dentist or medical doctor in their life.
After I perform my comprehensive exam, I summarize what I saw and how I could help them to get better. But, there is one question that I have never asked, and I now know what it is.
The critical question is: “What other health concerns do you have that I haven’t addressed yet?”
This open-ended question allows the patient to open up to me – to delve deeper into what may be bothering them beyond what I deal with as a periodontist. My job is not only to treat their gum disease but also to discover any other medical or emotional issues they may have.
It turns out that research has suggested that this is the most important question that patients need to be asked. Their answer could reveal what really would make them healthier and happier. Even if I were not the right medical person to address these issues, I would now be able to refer them to the correct healthcare professional to make them better.
Is your doctor asking you, “What other health concerns do you have that I haven’t addressed yet?” You can be sure that I will ask this question from now on.