Time Management to Help Prioritize Preventive Dental Care
Often, there is just not enough time to get things done. So you put off doing things you know you should until they come back to haunt you. You cannot ignore a crisis. It no longer matters that you did not have time to address it earlier, it is now red flag urgent. It has to ‘get done yesterday’. This all-sound familiar? It happens to most of us. This is the same for your patients too. Lack of attention to their oral health creeps up on them and all of a sudden, it becomes a necessity.
The best way to handle these events is to understand the degree of urgency and importance. Effective time management training coaches us that you should group your tasks into a matrix of four quadrants and prioritize those groups.
Group 1 is your urgent and important tasks – stuff that needs to be acted on now. Group 2 is your Pro-Active tasks – things that you need to react to before they become critical. Generally, these tasks are preventive in nature. You react upon these items.
Group 3 is your Re-Active tasks – things that may not be as important, but they react on you. They are easy or fun or pop up and have the “feel” of urgent but they are not important. Finally, there is Group 4 - timewasters - not important and not urgent. You can search on the internet for many images of this matrix by typing in ‘time management matrix.’
Time management and preventive dental care intertwine in Group 2. This is the place where tasks are not urgent but important. If tasks are not addressed properly, they become Group 1- urgent and important. If preventive dental care is not prioritized correctly by the patient, a lack of oral pain can sometimes lead to a feeling of, “everything in my mouth is fine because nothing hurts.” This belief often leads to bigger problems that could have been avoided with adequate preventive care and routine maintenance.
Many dental problems can be avoided with preventive care, and even if something does crop up, routine care and early management usually makes treatment easy and inexpensive. The reverse is unfortunately also true – lack of preventive care and waiting for pain before seeing a dental provider can lead to more invasive and expensive treatment.
We know that the frequency of continuing care or maintenance depends on the needs of each patient. It takes more than good intentions of dental providers to get patients motivated and practicing good preventive habits. Patients need to have a plan.
You can offer you patients four simple time management techniques to help take command of their preventive oral health plan.
- Oral hygiene must be a priority. People have multiple daily tasks and responsibilities. Discuss with patients what oral hygiene tasks are recommended to promote health in their mouth. Find a way to make it easy for them to achieve these tasks – set them up for success! Strategies may include different dental products or performing preventive dental care at different times of the day. Set realistic goals and be supportive!
- Suggest they add it to a list. Nothing wrong with adding a reminder to practice preventive oral hygiene on the to-do list. Could be as simple as, “After lunch, remember to brush and floss.” Adding it to a list provides visual acknowledgement while checking it off the list provides accomplishment.
- Beat Procrastination –One way to get past this obstacle is to set aside small increments of time each day to work on something. This prevents the mad rush to accomplish a goal before the deadline. For our patient’s oral health this akin to the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” By prioritizing just a few minutes a day for their preventive dental tasks, patients can help maintain oral health and prevent disease.
- Document the goal. Either you or your patient should write down the oral health goals and instruct them to reviewing them every day. Acknowledge that oral health is a journey and that oral health priorities lead to good habits. Highlight that their actions will impact and reinforce the goal and this will help keep the big picture current in their mind.