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Is eleven minutes sufficient for a New Patient Consultation?

NO! It isn’t.
I am, of course referring to the Consumers Association report which showed that this was the average length of time of an initial consultation.

That is woefully inadequate. Eleven minutes is about how long it takes to greet a patient, bring him or her to the consulting room from the reception area, introduce oneself and one’s nurse, make a patient comfortable with a little chit chat and then take a full dental history.

This is what then happens at Salisbury House Dental Practice (SHDP):
I will make you comfortable and will ask why have you come to see us. Do you have an urgent dental problem that requires immediate relief? Do you, perhaps, just want an examination to ensure that your dental health is good? Do you want any changes to the appearance of your teeth? These are all examples of reasons why patients come to our door every week.

I will ask about your past dental history and will discuss your current and past medical history too.

While chatting to you I will have already observed you chatting and will have noticed much about your teeth – how much tooth shows when you smile which can be an indicator of whether you are a night grinder, for example. Indeed, I will have noticed IF you smile, which tells me a lot.
The first part of the clinical examination will be a thorough assessment of the soft tissues of your mouth – the insides of the cheeks, lips, tongue etc. I am looking for lumps and bumps, ulcers, white patches, red patches, swellings etc. Of course, I hope I will find nothing.

The dental examination consists of a thorough examination of each tooth and documenting this on dental software. I will need to look round the teeth several times in order to be thorough.

The gum examination is usually a screening – taking only a few minutes to gain an overall outline view of how good your gum health is. IF it turns out to be poor I would need to undertake periodontal charting which itself can take 15 minutes.

We then discuss and decide which radiographs (X Rays) to take. I use digital radiographs which appear on the screen within seconds of being taken and we will discuss the findings together.

Sometimes this could take seconds…’Everything looks great. I just want to suggest a visit to see the practice hygienist every 3 to 6 months to keep things this good’ or it could take the best part of an hour… ‘Yes you’re right. I see the problems. This is actually quite complex…’

I normally schedule 30 -45 minutes for a New Patient Consultation and if your needs are complex I will need more time. So as not to keep the next patient waiting I will usually invite you back, at no extra cost, for a treatment planning discussion. During the intervening period I will make time to sit down with your notes and radiographs and cogitate. At no extra cost to you.

When we meet again we will normally be able to discuss the treatment required, the schedule and the fees.

This is not possible in eleven minutes.

Remember to visit the practice Facebook page ‘Like It’ and we will send you the Salisbuty House Dental Practice Guide to Dental Health.

Ian Greenwood