News |3 min read

How to Help Patients Understand What They Don’t Know

Valarie Caulfield, DAADOM with text, "Real-world insights from AADOM authors"

When I heard the phrase “You don’t know what you don’t know” while sitting in a continuing education class 15 years ago, it made my mind spin. Because frankly, it was so true. I didn’t know how true it would be in my life over the next 15 years.

I didn’t know I would still have a profound love of my dental office manager career.

I didn’t know my husband would be offered a job transfer, and I would leave the town where we raised our two children for the past 20 years.

I didn’t know we would move to a community 20 times the population of what we were leaving, and I didn’t know I would find an amazing office that would value me and my experience as much as the wonderful one I was leaving.

I am lucky. After all of these life changes, I still don’t know what I don’t know!

How dental teams can help educate patients

I’ve worked in my new office for three years, and I am certain that our patients don’t know what they don’t know. They only know what we offer them.

It’s up to us to educate and demonstrate what they can have.

If we don’t ask what they like or don’t like about their smile or appearance, they’ll never know what they can have.

If we don’t tell them we can change their smile with Invisalign treatment, beautiful porcelain veneers, and Zoom whitening, they’ll never know.

My life experience has kept me eager to know things. And I’m just as eager to share my knowledge of this life in dentistry.

Knowing about patients’ dental benefits may seem mind-boggling to the dental office manager. Imagine being the patient and knowing very little.

Again, it’s our duty to be in the “know” and help them navigate this. Because in the beginning, we didn’t know the first thing about dental benefits either!

Knowing about accounting in dentistry is important. We have to know how to explain the balance on a patient’s account, so it makes sense to them. We also have to be confident when explaining how we arrived at their balance.

Again, by us knowing, we can enlighten and educate, so there are no surprises.

And then, of course, there’s knowing about teeth.

People know they have teeth, and they certainly know when a tooth hurts. But sometimes they don’t know what they can have.

Everybody’s wants are different. Some want function. Some want to be free from pain. And some want a Hollywood smile.

We can give them all three.

It takes education. It takes time spent developing a trusting relationship, and it takes a lot of patience.

It’s up to us to make patients aware of what they don’t know.

Never stop learning, and never stop sharing what we know.

Do you know what you don’t know?!

Meet the Author

Valarie Caulfield in black topValarie has worked on the admin side of dentistry since 1984 and has been an office manager since 1991.

She began her journey with AADOM in 2011, receiving her Fellowship in 2015, Mastership in 2020, and Diplomate in 2021.

While she certainly loves the numbers and the business side of dentistry, her career has always focused on patient care and patient outcome.

Valarie helped to found the Northeast Washington AADOM chapter… This text opens a new tab to the chapter’s page… and currently serves as their vice president.

She and her husband Ed have been married for 36 years.


Become an AADOM author!

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *