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Fostering Personal Connections with Patients during COVID-19 Office Closures

Maintaining strong relationships with your orthodontic patients even when you’re not seeing them at appointments may be helpful for their treatment compliance, motivation and mental health. Beyond treatment issues, you may wish to make your practice a source of support for the many challenges your patients and their families are now facing.

Phone contacts and continuing with your social media presence can help you achieve both goals.

Teen and tween patients may be impatient about being cooped up at home and feel as if their lives have been taken away from them. They may be resisting the changes imposed on them by the coronavirus, including virtual schoolwork and social distancing. If you’re a parent of a teen yourself, you may already have caught your son or daughter about to leave the house, believing that social distancing does not require them to forego hanging out with a few friends.

And, of particular interest to you, changes in daily routines might make it easier for children and teens to neglect oral hygiene at times.

In addition to trying to help their kids handle these issues, parents and adult patients may also be coping with the stress of keeping work projects going at home. They may be overwhelmed by virtual learning initiatives from their children’s schools, that they feel are forcing them into a homeschooling role for which they don’t feel qualified or lack the time to understand.

As an orthodontist, your practice community should not expect you to offer complete solutions to these issues, but everyone will likely appreciate any helpful thoughts, ideas, resources or general support that you share.  Here some possibilities:

Make a Personal Phone Call

● Call each patient at the time when he or she would have had their regular appointment. Inquire about how things are going and offer support for both treatment compliance challenges and other issues.

● Call patients who are celebrating birthdays to wish them a happy birthday and again, offer support, humor and friendship.

Social Media Posts: Resources to Aid with Challenges

Below are some helpful resources to consider sharing on your practice’s social media pages:

● The Week:  How Families Can Self-Quarantine without Going Insane;

● Today Online:  Parents Share Their Kids’ Realistic Quarantine Schedules;

● Greater Good Magazine:  How to Help Teens Shelter in Place;

● Wired:  How to Work from Home without Losing Your Mind;

● Good Housekeeping: 6 Healthy Ways to Manage your Coronavirus Anxiety, According to Psychologists;

● The Atlantic: How Parents Can Keep Kids Busy (and Learning) in Quarantine;

● CNN:  Nickelodeon Launches New Content to Help Kids during the Coronavirus Pandemic 

● Healthline: Exercise at Home to Avoid the Gym during the Coronavirus Outbreak.

Social Media Content:  Humorous Memes

Many humorous coronavirus-related memes are circulating on social media and laughter, of course, may help all of us cope.  When sharing memes on your practice social media, be careful to avoid any with political or cultural connotations, or any content that might be concerning to those who are ill with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.

One of our favorite memes shows Baby Yoda washing his hands, in part because an orthodontic practice could easily add, “And while you’re at the sink, why not brush too?”
Baby Yoda Meme

Also, here is a good Friday afternoon meme to share:  “Looking at the map for some weekend travel ideas” (image shows a map of the interior of a home).
Weekend Travel Meme

Social Media Content:  Creating It Yourself

The February Practice Management Bulletin featured an interview with Dr. Grant Collins, who offered a variety of general insights into creating content and, in particular, using humor on TikTok and other social media.  If you are interested in creating your own content, your day-to-day thoughts and experiences at home may provide some material.
View the Interview with Dr. Collins

Additional options for creating content include: 

● Make a short video of yourself speaking to patients, letting them know that you’re concerned about their well-being during this time and perhaps offering encouragement in coping with quarantine/sheltering in place.  We recommend keeping the video short (1-2 minutes).

● Set up and post a trivia test on a local topic such as a pro sports team.  Announce that everyone who completes it correctly and posts their responses will be entered into a drawing for a big prize once your office re-opens. 

● Working on some continuing education while your office is closed? (Click here to learn about free online learning options from the AAO). Take a selfie of yourself learning online and post it, to let everyone know you’re staying busy and expanding your knowledge of how to create beautiful, healthy smiles.