THE NEXTDDS Blog

Dentistry and the Importance of Problem Solving

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Jun 07, 2017 @ 01:00 PM

iStock_000055038294_Small.jpgAs a dental student, you already know that becoming a dentist means making critical decisions. With diagnosis and treatment planning, there are many options that are presented for any given patient who finds him or herself in your chair. Being indecisive is no place for a dentist, and both your patients and your future practice team lies their trust in you. The more training and continued education that you receive while in school, the more your confidence grows as the right decisions are made during a young career.

The ability to identify problems and implement solutions is a dentist’s bread and butter. Problem solving can go beyond your patients and find its way into managing your team, running your small business, or any other billing or marketing issues that may arise when you find yourself as a practice owner. In any event, one can use the following breakdown to combat these common challenges.

Identify the Underlying Problem

You can’t solve a problem without first defining the underlying cause. Ask yourself, is this problem a consequence of a larger issue? Focusing on the root cause will make it easier to determine solutions, rather than patching up inconsequential difficulties or other minor inconsistencies. It might take some time, but if you see the complete picture you can more accurately determine a solution from it. Whether it’s inner-office politics or a hiccup in a report, searching for that overarching problem should be your first step.

Have Many Solutions

Once you have identified the problem, don’t rush into the first solution that pops into your head. If you act too soon, you might not be considering the best possible answer. Instead, find alternative solutions—this may open more doors for compromises, and leave everyone involved with a “win-win”. When you have options, you might be able to see which solutions have the least amount of repercussions, and decide from there. Of course, if a problem doesn’t allow for these alternatives, then your first reaction has to be used.

Planning

Don’t keep the problem to yourself, or push your preferred solution. Hear out how team members might approach, and discuss how your options will play out in the long-term. Not only will it generate more options for tackling the problem, but talking it over with your staff will help build team trust and leadership. Your staff will certainly appreciate it. Once that’s in place, begin to see how each option will look in full motion, and implement the one that has the greatest gain with the lowest risk.

Implement and Evaluation

When in the implementation process, assess what responsibilities and outcomes will be expected. Does your staff need to know? What are some adjustments that need to be made when the solution is reached? What can you change to prevent this problem from recurring? You’ll find that many “soft skills” will be implemented here as well, and reevaluation should be your last step. How well is your solution working? Does a new plan need to be implemented? Is the problem ultimately solved? If things are not working out, take a step back for reevaluation. Luckily, if you’ve followed these recommendations, you’ll have many options in place, and consider alternatives to finally solve that problem.

Dental students are expected to problem solve almost every day. But have you had the time to think about whether or not your problem-solving skills are effective? Becoming a part of the healthcare profession means being a leader in your chosen field. With maturity, accountability, and a little bit of courage, dental students can find themselves reaching their fullest potential as new leaders. There’s no better time to acquire these problem-solving tools once you prepare to enter a new semester. Start your leadership skills off right!

Find more helpful information by enrolling in THE NEXTDDS

Further reading:

The 4 Most Effective Ways Leaders Solve Problems

Problem Solving Skills

Seven Steps for Effective Problem Solving in the Workplace

How To Solve Problems - Techniques of Problem Solving

Problem Solving

Tags: dentistry, treatment planning, problem solving

5 Tips on Identifying & Communicating with Eating Disorder Dental Patients

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Oct 28, 2015 @ 01:00 PM

Student Ambassador Blog
by Andrea Sauerwein

dentist-with-patientAs rising dental professionals, it is crucial to remember that in addition to focusing on our patients’ oral health we may also be the first to identify and intercede with issues extending beyond their smile. Individuals tend to present to their dentist more regularly than their physician, emphasizing our role as advocates for patients’ overall health and wellbeing. These could involve eating disorders, substance-abuse disorders, obstructive sleep apnea, as well as domestic violence. Clinical signs and symptoms are apparent in some cases: erosion patterns of enamel due to acidic regurgitation, softened tooth structure and rampant caries due to “meth mouth,” fractured or avulsed teeth due to trauma. However, not all patients are forthcoming and willing to divulge the honest cause behind these oral problems. The question posed is how do we broach such a sensitive subject when patients are not forthcoming of their medical history or personal events, specifically the sensitive subject of eating disorders?

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, studies have found up to 89% of bulimic patients have signs of tooth erosion, due to the effects of stomach acid. Bad breath, sensitive teeth and eroded tooth enamel are just a few of the signs that dentists use to determine whether a patient suffers from an eating disorder. Other signs include teeth that are worn and appear almost translucent, mouth sores, dry mouth, cracked lips, bleeding gums, and tender mouth, throat and salivary glands.  

Kristi Hatfield, RD, MS, provides some tips on communicating with such patients you may suspect of covering up a history of eating disorder:

  • Start by asking if he or she has had a history with acid reflux. GERD typically affects the posterior (more so with maxillary) lingual aspects, whereas bulimia displays a pattern of mainly anterior lingual erosion. Trauma to the maxillary anterior may be evident (i.e. fractured incisal edges or mobility).
  • Don’t be afraid to use the word “bulimia.” Ask the question with compassion, but also with confidence. The more uncomfortable you appear, the more timid and closed off the patient will be.
  • It is essential to pose your discussion in a non-judgmental manner. Aim to build trust between you and the patient and avoid “coaching” him or her. Shame and denial are tightly linked to bulimia nervosa, and an individual may not be ready to open up to you at the initial exam.

It is critical to share your clinical findings with the patient and explain how their symptoms are linked. Make sure to:

  • Discuss with the patient the reason his or her dentition is in such state is due to a problem that needs to be identified.
  • Emphasize that no dental work can be performed to permanently remedy their dentition until such cause is recognized and treated.
The goal here is to cultivate motivation within the patient.  If a patient still appears reluctant to admitting a possible eating disorder, request a medical consult with their physician.

Compliance may be difficult to achieve, as an eating disorder can span many years. Eating disorders often goes through quiet and active phases, and dental professionals must be supportive throughout. Ultimately, communication is key to achieving any level of success. The sooner you can form a trusting relationship with your patient, the better your chances of aiding them in tackling this destructive psychological problem, and the better the outcome.

Find more helpful information by enrolling in THE NEXTDDS

Tags: dentistry, treatment planning, eating disorders, patient communication, diagnosing

Posts by category