Affan Saghir – effective communication with our patients

Affan SaghirWith Affan Saghir hosting a webinar on connecting with patients and the power of effective communication, we find out a little more about what has inspired him to talk about this.

What is your ethos in dentistry?

Affan Saghir: I come from a hardworking background and graduated in 2013.

I am passionate about providing good dentistry. And I want to be remembered as the dentist who cared.

Therefore I aim to create ethical, beautiful smile makeovers that are long lasting, and I want to work in my patient’s best interest. I want to inspire and I want to achieve with integrity.

From a professional point of view, I aim to learn, reflect and improve on a daily basis.

  • Example of teeth anterior crowding of the upper and lower anterior segment, dentine exposure in the lower and upper anterior segment edges of dentition

Why is anterior alignment so critical in many of the cases you are treating?

Affan Saghir: When I carry out cosmetic dental treatment, I am looking at the aesthetics. But I’m focusing critically on the functional considerations to help achieve a predictable outcome.

Many patients present with anterior crowding. Many of my patients have lower anterior crowding after having orthodontics as a child and not remembering to wear a night time retainer on a regular basis.

I routinely have a look at the protrusive guidance and lateral excursive guidance movement. If there is conflict between the lower and upper protrusive pattern of movement, there is a need to at least consider some form of anterior alignment prior to adhesive restorative work.

This is to make the overall adhesive restorative work more predictable in the long term.

How do you explain complex treatments in the most effective way?

Affan Saghir: I want to communicate complex treatment plans in a simple, effective and efficient way.

The way I do this is not brand new, it is not something that hasn’t been taught in the past. It is just the way I personally explain it to my patients.

The concept is A, B, C.

A stands for ‘align’. So we start off by aligning the crowded teeth or spaced teeth if needed.

Next we carry out teeth whitening. B stands for ‘brighten’. We use home-whitening gel and the evidence base (Burrows et al – A review of the efficacy of tooth bleaching) suggests that 10% carbamide peroxide used in a home whitening tray will help to whiten the shade of the dentition effectively.

The last phase is C that stands for ‘contour’. We can finish a smile with composite edge bonding to improve and enhance the shape of the dentition.

We can do some direct work in the form of lab-made veneers, or for example work with an implant dentist and provide an implant.

The patient needs to understand the importance of life-long retention, usually in the form of night time retainers. 

  • Example of A, B, C. Closing space using clear aligner therapy. Following this home whitening and then composite edge bonding. We have provided a fixed and removable retainer

What is the one, important tip for a young dentist who wants to improve?

Affan Saghir: Take your time is my advice.

I remember very early on I met a mentor of mine, Dr Mark Bishop, who is a tutor at Sheffield’s University. Dr Bishop would always say to me that it is not a sprint, it is a marathon, take your time.

Now, having been a dentist since 2013, I now look back and appreciate there is so much that we need to learn and reflect on. Learning never stops.

I am a reflective practitioner and I really want to provide ethical, long-lasting dentistry. I have recently completed two postgraduate diplomas. One is in advanced aesthetic and restorative dentistry with Dr Subir Banerjee. The second is in clear aligner therapy with Dr Raman Aulakh.

Both diplomas, alongside many other short courses, are helping me understand and reflect on the clinical work that I am carrying out on a regular basis.

I will continue to learn and reflect. There is so much I am learning at this phase in my career. And I hope to continue going on many courses and learning and reflecting.

The one thing I would recommend to all young dentists is slow and steady wins the race.

In summary, my advice is please take your time, learn, reflect, listen to mentors and don’t rush and cut corners.

Mr Mark Bishop – one of many esteemed mentors of mine who I wish to thank for guidance and support

How do clinician’s build long-lasting relationships with patients?

Affan Saghir: I feel that the most important thing is to treat patients the way you wish to be treated. Patients can genuinely feel if you want to help them and if you are working in their best interest.

I have numerous patients who come to me wanting cosmetic dental work. My dental nurse, Jade, and I will sit down and explain to the patient that looking at their dentition, we personally feel that their smile is really nice and they don’t need to consider any cosmetic dental treatment at this stage in their life.

The patients usually are so impressed by our honesty and integrity that they in turn refer so many patients.

So, it is never a push to get patients to commit. It is about listening and respecting the patients and doing our very best to help them understand what the options are.

I give patients time to reflect, understand and decide what they want to do.

Informed consent is critical. Every one of my patients has a comprehensive dental report on the health of their dentition, and the treatment options. They have time to learn, think and reflect about the options. When the patient is happy to go ahead, that’s when we will begin. Even then we give them time between their decision and the first treatment appointment.

How do clinicians improve the chairside patient experience?

Affan Saghir: The most important thing for me is looking after the patient the way I would look after myself.

I do my level best to make the patient feel calm, comfortable and feel they have been listened to during a consultation. I have tried to adopt a patient-centered dental environment where the patient feels comfortable discussing their issues and concerns and being able to be honest and upfront about anything they wish to discuss.

It’s always been a passion of mine to provide high quality ethical and caring dentistry. I genuinely want to give patients an opportunity to learn about their teeth and the different treatment options. To have time to think and reflect and when they feel ready, they can then continue with dental treatment.

It is about giving the patients choice and giving them options. Allowing them to think and reflect.

When they are ready, they can then discuss and continue with the treatment journey.

In terms of the patient experience, I would always advocate remaining professional, kind, caring, humble, and try to make it as easy as possible for the patient. We need to be mindful that many patients also come with previous dental anxieties.

What is your take home message for the webinar?

Affan Saghir: My take home messages are:

  1. Take your time, listen to the patient, reflect on what they are saying and do your level best to make it as comfortable as possible for the patient during their appointment. Follow the appointment with a comprehensive dental report/letter. The patient can take this home, digest, think about it, and then have time to ask you questions… Following this they can then decide what they wish to do
  2. Importance of taking your time. Whether that is in terms of learning, understanding dentistry, carrying out dental treatments. Or whether it is when it comes to treating patients and starting dental treatments. Give them time to think and reflect and always give them opportunity to ask as many questions as possible.

The final element that I want to put across is that I genuinely believe we are in an amazing profession. There are so many patients who are looking forward to seeing us. So many patients that are going to benefit from our work. We are in a position of respect and trust for many. I will never forget that and I will always do my best to work in the patient’s best interests.


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