Why handouts for patients are a total win

person holding and reading a brochure

This article is written by Catherine Maurer, MAADOM, and contributed by the American Association of Dental Office Management.

Communication is one of the most challenging things we deal with every day in a dental office. How often has your office given instructions or recommendations to a patient only to have them call back with questions? While in the office, patients may be stressed, confused, or unfamiliar with the terms we likely all take for granted. A quick way to contend with this problem is to put it in writing!

It costs little to create cards that cover the myriad of topics we address daily. Whether you do them yourself or send them to a company such as Vistaprint, Office Depot, or Staples for printing, it is an excellent way to enhance your patient communication. Providing educational or instructional materials in a handout that patients can access on their own time and in terms they may be more comfortable with has many rewards.

1. Improved patient education

Handouts provide patients with valuable information about oral health, dental procedures, and preventive care. Educated patients are more likely to adhere to treatment plans and maintain good oral hygiene practices.

2. Enhanced communication

Handouts serve as visual aids during patient consultations, facilitating clearer communication between the dentist and the patient. Patients can refer to the handouts later to refresh their memory or share information with family members. In our practice, we have a large population of patients who are not computer-savvy and prefer printed materials.

3. Increased patient satisfaction

Patients appreciate receiving educational materials that empower them to take control of their oral health. Providing handouts demonstrates a commitment to patient education and contributes to overall satisfaction with the dental practice.

4. Reduced anxiety

Dental procedures can be intimidating for patients. Informative handouts can alleviate anxiety by explaining procedures in detail, addressing common concerns, and providing post-treatment care instructions.

5. Promotion of preventive care

Handouts emphasize the importance of preventive care measures such as regular dental checkups, proper brushing and flossing techniques, and dietary recommendations. By promoting preventive care, handouts can help stop dental problems before they arise.

6. Marketing opportunity

Branded handouts with the dental practice‘s logo and contact information serve as a subtle form of marketing. Patients may share handouts with friends and family, potentially generating referrals for the practice.

7. Time efficiency

Providing handouts can save time during patient consultations by preemptively addressing frequent questions and concerns. Dentists can focus on addressing individual patient needs while knowing that essential information is in the handouts.

8. Legal protection

Handouts can document informed consent, treatment options discussed, and post-treatment instructions, providing a layer of legal protection for the dental practice in case of misunderstandings or disputes.

Creating your handouts

We make our handouts in two sizes, 4-by-6 and 4-by-8 inches. The larger format is great for more comprehensive topics, such as periodontal disease, clenching and bruxism, or dental bridges and bridge care. The smaller ones are shorter-length topics such as dry-mouth home care, pain-relief instructions, and caring for your dental appliance.

In all, we currently have 15 different topics addressed this way. One we are currently scripting is on cracked tooth syndrome. It explains what a cracked tooth means, our treatment recommendations, and the outcome if not addressed. More importantly, we let the patient know that insurance may not cover the treatment so that they won’t be surprised if that is the outcome. This is a good example of how this form of communication protects our practice while educating the patient.

The American Dental Association has handouts available for purchase, but we have found creating our own is less expensive and more customized to our way of communication. Overall, offering informational handouts demonstrates a commitment to patient education, improves communication, enhances patient satisfaction, and contributes to better oral health outcomes.

Catherine MaurerAbout the Author

Catherine Maurer, MAADOM, started in her father’s practice in 1969, helping in the lab and developing x-rays the old-fashioned way. In the 55 years since, she has embraced the tremendous scientific and technological advancements in dentistry, working with her team to apply them to the benefit of the practice’s patients. As a former Dentrix trainer and salesperson, she is keenly aware of the benefits of software-driven practice management. She recently project managed the design and build-out of a new office facility — one which, through the passion and quality of care provided by the entire team, was just named Best Dentist of all the practices in her hometown of Lake Oswego. Maurer is currently VP of the Portland, Oregon, DPLN and a lifetime member of AADOM. To learn more about AADOM’s resources for dental professionals and to find more peer-to-peer inspiration, visit www.dentalmanagers.com.