I was recently talking to a dental student who has an opportunity to work with his father after graduation. The student had questions regarding his integration into the practice as a new graduate.

My advice is to take photographs.

Photographs unlock value by increasing case acceptance. Taking photos is a cheap, low-stress way to build relationships with new and existing patients who are just getting to know you. When you start working in the office, you may be asked to do hygiene. That’s fine, but take photos. Start talking to patients about treatment – maybe not necessarily what they need today, but what they may need in the future.

The Scene May Play Like This

Patient sits in chair for prophy.

You: Hi Sally, I’m Dr. Joe and I’ll be taking care of you today. I just purchased a new camera that we are trying in the office (this gives you an excuse if the pictures don’t come out well because we can all relate to struggling with a new piece of technology). I’d like to take some photos of your teeth before we start today, would you mind?

Most patients will not object.

You: Take a few photos. Say thank you, hand the camera to an assistant. Let the patient know that your assistant will upload the photos to your computer and you’ll review them together when you’re done with today’s treatment. Once you have finished the cleaning, just look at the photos together and let the patient tell you what she sees. If the patient sees nothing and you see something, keep it casual.

Maybe you’ll say – Sally, your teeth look very well taken care for. Do you see these teeth? They’re perfect. But what do you think about this one? This one has had some work done. Do you remember when this filling was placed? (Sally probably says no). You say, I bet it was more than 20 years ago, and it’s held up well, but it’s starting to show its age. Let’s make a note to re-evaluate this particular tooth during your next exam to see if it looks the same or if it’s changed. That’s it.

Now you’ve established that you’re a doctor, not a hygienist. And if Sally sees you for her exam and you diagnose a crown or a filling or whatever else needs to be done, you’ve already primed the patient, and established a floor to build trust upon. As an aside – Sally might be more likely to want to see you again to re-evaluate the tooth as opposed to maintaining her preference to see the senior doctor.