Home' News Bulletin : ADA News Bulletin March 2016 Contents step, but so too is getting to know the
local community of GPs to build a referral
“The traditional dental practice is still the
solo business or the small practice, and
there are rarely good links to others working
in the medical fraternity, and yet there
needs to be,” Dr Skapetis says. “I always state
we need the GP doctors more than they
need us, so always make them your friends.”
Dr Peter Alldritt, Chairman of the ADA’s Oral
Health Committee, tells of an experience
with a new patient in his Adelaide practice
after a family had been turned away by
their regular dentist.
“ The child had a nasty accident, and
when the parent rang their regular
dentist, was flatly told, ‘We close at 5
today’,” Dr Alldritt says.
“ The reality is we wanted to go home as
well, but this was a family in real need
and so we stayed back and took care of
that situation. That is what a dentist is
meant to do.”
The payoff was that large family has since
become loyal patients, and their referrals
have continued ever since.
“ That family always mention how grateful
they are for the day we took care of the
kid,” Dr Alldritt says. “And that feeling of
being appreciated far outweighs any
feeling I wanted to go home that night so I
could have an early dinner.”
MAkING IT LEGAL
Due to the consequences behind the cause
of the dental trauma, many cases later on
become the subject of insurance claims or
result in legal proceedings.
“ Timely record-keeping is an essential,”
Northern Territory practitioner Dr Kate
Raymond, also a member of the Dental
Board of Australia, says. “ This is not just
documentation of the clinical findings
and consent, but obtaining a history of
the injury, recording the medical history,
describing the appearance of all injuries,
obtaining clinical photographs and noting
the salient points of any discussions.”
As so many trauma cases involve children
and minors, the issue of consent is important,
especially if the injured child is brought in by
someone who is not a parent or guardian.
“ This can be very significant where a school
teacher or sports coach may act in place
of the parents and provide consent for
emergency treatment,” Dr Raymond adds.
“I find having a standard investigative
process to follow is helpful. A degree of
structured thinking allows me to work
systematically, efficiently and calmly when
confronted with the trauma.”
MANAGING THE SITUATION
For all the best intentions of the dentist
and the clinic team, the reality of treating
an emergency patient can cause upheaval
with even the most ordered schedule.
The challenge of such a situation is, Dr
Peter Alldritt states, to have trained the
practice team to know how to take charge
of the situation.
Dr Alldritt says two factors need to be
determined – an estimation of how long
the trauma case will take to treat, and what
that will do to other patients already in the
waiting room or booked for the day.
“I first assess the emergency patient to see
if this needs to be treated at once, or if I
indeed can get them out of pain for now,
and ask them to come back later in the day
when I have a clearer schedule,” he explains.
“ Then the support staff need to let all the
other patients for the day know what has
happened, explain it is an emergency and
either ask them to wait or reschedule.
Most patients, given the courtesy of an
explanation, are happy to work around the
A time of high drama, when the wellbeing of
a family member or loved one is in jeopardy,
is also a time when emotions are likely to run
high. It is, Dr Kate Raymond says, when smart
communication must be the key.
“Communication should be calm, upfront
and honest and should work towards
building a relationship of trust to enable
provision of ongoing care,” Dr Raymond says.
Being flexible to cope with the situation as
it unfolds is important, setting the rules so
the dentist can do their job is paramount.
“ While emotional support and treatment
discussions can be facilitated by friends
and family, it is often beneficial for the
support people to remain outside the
treatment room while clinical procedures
GETTING THE RESULTS
Better initial training, improved referral
networks and clearer marketing are among
the factors that can play a key role in
influencing treatment options in a time of
trauma, so that dentists remain on the front
line of the care.
“ Trauma is not precise and it is not high
tech, and that is the beauty of it,” Dr Tony
Skapetis says. “You can make a difference
and it is a matter of being there and of
coping with it. It is also about making sure
the patient has the best care possible.”
John has been writing about the Australian medical
field for almost two decades. He also lectures
on journalism and media at the University of
30 | ADA NEWS BULLETIN | MARCH 2016
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