Dental Staffing

Dental Teams: Are You Wowing Them with Your New Patient Exam?

A woman sitting in a dentist's chair with an ipad.

I remember when I was right out of dental school and working my first job. My boss prepped a lot of crowns on a lot of people and seemed to make a lot of money. It was what we were taught in school: fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures and partials. We tend to fall into a rhythm of what I’ve heard called “the crown of the month club”. I know I was guilty of membership in this club and when I decided to drop out, dentistry got exciting again.

I had to change my thinking and in looking back, it was a 180 degree change from what I was taught. As you all know, we’re not taught treatment plan presentation, financing or anything about the “business” of dentistry. If you start with new patients, it’s easier to change old habits. The first question I’d ask is: what is the system you use in bringing a new patient on board?

Is the New Patient Exam different that the Recall Exam? Are you WOWING that new patient, sending them away with the feeling that they’ve been thoroughly cared for? Is your entire staff on board to participate in the experience? If not, try this…

Once the patient has made the appointment, be sure to inform them how long they will be in the office for the exam, gather insurance information and give them the option: either send them to your website for their paperwork or send it to them via the mail. If mailed, include a self-addressed envelope allowing them to easily return the paperwork to your office for computer input. The point here is that we need paperwork, but at the same time, make it as easy as possible for the patient. I don’t know about you, but I really dislike the paperwork thing.

Your ‘greeting’ Assistant takes the patient to the intake area in order to take photos: full face smile, up close smile, retracted smile, full upper and full lower photo. Once seated in a treatment room, individual photos are taken of each tooth and three surfaces of each tooth. Either a full series of radiographs are taken or a panorex film and 4BWX and 2PAX (anterior) are taken. A FMP (full-mouth probe) or a FMD (full-mouth debride) is also determined as a standard of care.

All existing restorations/conditions of each individual tooth are documented and from here, a full and complete treatment plan can be determined. If a debridement is determined to be the appropriate course of treatment, a future appointment will be necessary to determine if further treatment of the periodontal tissues is indicated and all necessary restorative treatment can be fully viewed.

Don’t forget to document occlusal classification, the condition of the TMJ, and most importantly the oral cancer exam. Take photos of any soft tissue that doesn’t look 100% normal. This is why intra-oral cameras are so very important: these photos document this patient exactly as they presented to you at their initial visit; enough cannot be said about this documentation to protect the dentist if unforeseen problems arise in the future.

Now you are ready to diagnose and plan Complete Care and drop out of the “crown of the month club”. Are you diagnosing for Complete Care? Are you presenting treatment plans reflecting Complete Care? How about your staff, are they on board to the concept of Complete Care? Join us for our article on “The Concept of Complete Care: The Treatment Plan Presentation”.


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“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation
with the bricks others have thrown at him.”
- David Brinkley