Dealing With Patients' Dental X-Ray Concerns
One of the most frustrating problems that a dental professional encounters is patients that are reluctant to undergo dental x-rays. Some patients may even outright refuse an x-ray procedure. Have you wondered how you, as the person responsible for their dental care and oral health, should deal with such situations? Many experienced dental professionals have addressed this issue. This article brings together the advice offered by several of them.
Perhaps you have read our recent article about the general safety of dental x-rays. Perhaps you already have a solid understanding of the low risk that dental x-rays pose to your patients. Now, read this brief article to learn how to handle patients who have an aversion to dental x-rays.
Safety of Dental X-Rays
To review our previous article about the safety of dental x-rays, dental x-rays produce only 5 micro-sieverts of radiation, less than the 10 micro-sieverts that the average person is exposed to on a regular day. A study conducted in 1995 in Sweden and the United States showed no link between dental or medical x-rays and thyroid cancer.
Dentists should still use thyroid shields on patients during dental x-rays whenever possible, and assess each patient personally before recommending a dental x-ray. Dental x-rays should not be performed just to fit an office routine; dental x-rays should be performed based on each individual patient’s needs.
Personal Visit with the Doctor
The last point about the dentist meeting with each patient personally was addressed by Dr. Carol Tekavec in issue 450 of Mckenzie Management’s e-management newsletter. She explained that when the dental x-rays are requested by the assistant or hygienist before the patient meets with the doctor, this can send the message that x-rays are routine for every patient and not vital for the patient’s exam. This increases the chance that the patient will refuse the x-rays.
Instead, Dr. Tekavec suggests that the dentist meet with the new patient in a private room before the exam is performed. The dentist can get to know the patient’s concerns and history, and after the interview the dentist can ask the hygienist to take x-rays in the presence of the patient. This helps the patient understand that the x-rays are necessary for the exam. Dr. Tekavec explains that the patient will be less likely to refuse the x-rays if they see the doctor ordering them.
Dental X-Ray Refusal Form
Some dentists have their patients sign an x-ray refusal form if those patients choose not to undergo x-rays, but the general consensus is that this will not protect the practice if the patient takes legal action in the future. As Dr. Dainne Glasscoe explains in an article on rdhmag.com, even if a patient signs this form, no patient can give consent for a dentist to perform negligent dental care. If a dental x-ray is not taken when it is needed for proper diagnosis, that qualifies as negligent care.
If a patient continues to refuse to undergo dental x-rays, the best response may be to dismiss the patient from the practice. This may offend or anger the patient, but it is the best way to protect the patient from negligent dental care and your practice from legal action if something goes wrong with that patient’s dental health in the future.
Handling Common Objections
So you understand that the best choice is to perform a dental x-ray when is needed, instead of avoiding it because your patient is reluctant to undergo one, but how do you convince those patients to agree to the procedure?
Dr. Tekavec lists ways dentists can deal with each one of the common objections to dental x-rays.
Sometimes patients object to x-rays for unknown reasons, or simply because they feel the x-rays are simply part of standard procedure for every patient and not truly necessary in their case. Solve this problem by following the advice mentioned earlier which suggested that you meet with new patients personally before ordering x-rays.
If the patient is worried about radiation, explain that an x-ray procedure is necessary for proper care, Dr. Tekavec says.
It may also be helpful to explain what a low dosage of radiation a patient will experience from a dental x-ray, and compare it to other sources of radiation that the patient will be more familiar with. Our previous blog post referenced a chart on Dental Planet’s website that illustrates this very well.
Insurance Coverage Concerns
Dr. Tekavec says that you should be ready with a response to patients who have concerns about their insurance coverage. If possible, find out beforehand whether a patient’s insurance usually covers dental x-rays, she says. Explain this to the patient honesty and simply, even if the answer is no. If the answer is no, remind the patient that it is still your responsibility to take care of him or her properly, and that involves taking an x-ray for proper diagnosis.
Dr. Glasscoe reminds dental professionals to keep a positive attitude no matter what the patient’s response is. Do your best to protect the patient’s best interest and yourself from legal complications.
One good way to keep a positive attitude in general is to check out our online selection of used dental x-rays. Our low prices will definitely keep your spirits up. Check them out.