The Isolite may be great for you, but it sucks for your patients

We use the Isolite instead of a rubber dam to isolate the teeth we are treating. The product’s makers promise “total control of the oral environment,” and the benefits for me are better visibility, better suction, a wider open for seeing and treating, and generally speedier treatment times—all good things for my practice, but hold on.

What about how my patients feel? How do they perceive this invasive device?

Initially placing the Isolite in a patient’s mouth is kind of like trying to feed a baby that “yummy” green stuff. (“Open wide! It’s good for you!”) We play games to get the baby to open up. We shove the spoon in during that brief window of opportunity. But, if the baby makes her mind up, insisting “NO MORE!” it doesn’t matter what you try. She will not open.

Similarly, shoving the Isolite into their patients’ mouths, dentists may coo, “I know it’s uncomfortable, but it’s not so bad once it’s in there.” Or how about this ringing endorsement? “If you feel like you’re gonna throw up, wave your hand, and we’ll take it out, real quick!”

The truth is, from the patient’s point of view, the Isolite sucks! (In fact, the patient may well think every last second spent in the dentist’s chair sucks. . . ) Case in point, I recently had a root canal on an upper molar. Even though my associate did a fabulous service, it still was no fun for me—and that was with my understanding of all the advantages of using the Isolite when doing an upper molar endo!

Expressing empathy and taking time out to properly frame the use of the Isolite with each patient can take you a long way. For instance, patients may become more relaxed and cooperative when you explain that, because the Isolite improves visibility for you, its use may shorten their overall appointment time and improve the quality of your work. You can also let each patient know that it may help protect their cheeks and tongue from cuts or bruising and that it generally helps you provide safer, more comfortable care for them. With those points in mind, your patients may more willingly accept some discomfort and inconvenience.

Best of all, safe and satisfied patients are a terrific source of positive feedback on social media and terrific referral sources. How you paint your story about the Isolite—and, really, how you talk about every tool of the trade—matters. Arming patients with real information and choosing your words wisely can make a big, positive impact on your patients’ experience.