Sheri's Solutions: 'What is an IFU?'

2013 08 14 15 37 19 36 Doniger Sheri 2013 200

Patient chatter sometimes goes from purely technical to off-the-charts uproarious. The other day, we had a patient who started joking about the "nummy-numb juice." I was laughing so hard during the anesthetic procedure I had to stop, retreat, and start again. In addition, he proceeded (not intentionally) to close at the wrong time with my fingers in his mouth. Yes, this was an adult, almost senior male, being a comic, as is his wont.

We all have patients who enjoy telling a good joke or saying something funny, just at the perfect moment. It is sometimes a ray of sunshine in an abnormally bitter cold day in Chicago, lending levity to a dental procedure that may cause fear in some patients. This may be considered an annoyance in other practices, but I never find humor an annoyance.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.
Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.

Dentistry does not usually lend itself to comedic interludes. Dental speak is not the most exciting thing in the world. Mesial. Interproximal. Occlusal. But my assistant and I were discussing implementing a new product in our armamentarium at some point in the near future, and I asked if she read the IFU.

For those of you who don't know, the IFU is that sheet of paper the manufacturer places into the product packaging that gives specific instructions as to the "instructions for use," as determined by their scientists creating the product. Everyone should be reading these instructions to maximize the effectiveness of the product. Some do not.

I was recently with a few dental colleagues, and when I mentioned "IFU," their eyes glazed over and they asked, "What is an IFU?" What do people do with those things? Don't all assistants and dentists read the instructions? Not all bonding agents are created equal.

I digress. My patient thought that was funny: "IFU? What is that? Are you speaking in code saying 'FY' to me?" So we stopped and explained that we were not saying some dental speak text shortcut for something crude, that we were talking about a simple instruction sheet. He made a joke about it, we laughed and moved on.

“We are in the business of smile making. And what better smile than one that comes from laughing.”

It is a rare patient that has you laughing during the entire treatment. And it is one of the best experiences we have in our office. Lightening the mood with humor is an art form. No, I don't recommend taking stand-up or improv, but, in truth, we are all performers when we do our role as a dental professional. We have to treat, educate, and sometimes calm and entertain.

Humor is good therapy. Laughing is cathartic. If you haven't tried it in your office lately, you are missing something. You won't look less professional if you laugh a little. After all, we are in the business of smile making. And what better smile than one that comes from laughing. I can't wait for this patient to return. One never knows what joke or pun is lurking, waiting to entertain all of us.

Do you have comedic interludes in your day? If not, try to find some. It will be good for the whole team.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She is currently vice president and president-elect of the American Association of Women Dentists and editor of the American Association of Women Dentists "Chronicle" newsletter. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. You can reach her at [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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