I had a ‘light bulb’ moment recently. Thoughts, ideas and facts came together and formed the bigger, clearer picture. And it came when I was reading an article in the August 2013 issue of AGD’s peer-reviewed clinical journal, General Dentistry.
Mark Malterud, DDS, MAGD, presents a case of an anomalous cusp projecting off of tooth #2 in a 17-year-old female patient. Malterud discusses the treatment options that would need to be considered in this unique case to correct and maintain the molar for this patient. In his treatment considerations are a variety of specialists that the patient could be referred to: an endodontist for the treatment of the shared innervations; a periodontist for the lack of bone; even an oral surgeon if extraction and implant are required. But each of these specialists alone could not provide the comprehensive treatment that would be needed to restore the tooth. Malterud concludes that, “a well-trained general dentist who has studied widely, such as an AGD Master, was probably this patient’s best chance at getting a successful outcome.”
This statement resonated with me. I had heard the terminology that a general dentist is the “gatekeeper” of patient care. But I naively thought of that meaning they are the ones that come in contact with the patients first. Then, if the patients need specialty care, are responsible for referring them (triage, basically). What I can see now is that the general dentist is the mastermind behind the necessary total treatment. We are the ones to diagnose, break down the issue, find a way to fix it and make it happen. We get to decide what treatment to take on in our offices and we can fall back on specialists to take on those harder cases. Patients rely on us for their own “big picture,” comprehensive care. And that’s pretty cool!
A high school friend of mine is completing a family medicine residency right now. He posted a Facebook status update that read, “Delivered two babies, guy with pulmonary embolism, code blue, sutured a hand laceration. Today was cool. Love FM.” General dentistry can relate in some ways. Anything can happen during a day. We need to be ready to handle whatever walks through our doors. That requires an extensive knowledge base of all divisions of dentistry and the clinical skills to back it up.
In dental school I was asked if I was going to specialize or just be a general dentist. It sounded like becoming just a general dentist was settling. What this light bulb moment and Dr. Malterud’s article made clear to me is that general dentistry is far from settling. General dentistry is quite a responsibility, and it requires continual education and drive to provide such comprehensive patient care.
Katie Divine, DDS