Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Things That I Wish Patients Knew

In speaking with patients, I’ve come to realize that there are some things that patients just don’t know. And, despite my brilliant explanations, there are some things that most people just won’t believe, especially when it comes to these dentistry topics:

  1. Dentistry Is Not an Exact Science
Ask three dentists to diagnose one tooth and you may end up with three different treatment plans. For example, you may have one dentist suggest a large composite, another may place an onlay, and another a porcelain crown. This is simply due to an honest difference of opinion. Other than price, the patient may never be able to tell the difference in his or her mouth. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Here’s a clue: Each provides quite a serviceable restoration.

  1. Dentistry Doesn’t Last Forever
Yes, that porcelain crown that I just placed may need to be replaced some day. I explain to patients that if the tooth that God made for them did not last forever, mine probably won’t either. He’s a much better dentist than I am and He uses better materials. Plus, God has been doing this much longer than I have.  
We’ve all been there: A patient comes in with a gold onlay that needs to be recemented. The patient complains about a “lousy dentist,” whose “work did not stay in.” You ask when it was placed. “Sometime around 1974,” the patient answers.
Even the latest and greatest implants don’t last forever—despite the advertising. If you are like me, you’ve even removed one or two loose implants with your fingers. Implants are good; it’s just that despite the claims, you can’t guarantee that they will last forever.

  1. Dentistry Is Stressful
This may come as a shock to you, but patients do NOT think your job is stressful. They think, “Are you kidding? He (or she) just sits there all day. How stressful can that be?”
This became clear to me at a party recently. A friend of mine, who is not a dentist but happens to know several dentists, said to me, “Phil is always complaining about how stressful dentistry is. Tell me, is it really that stressful?” She was shocked when I told her that I agreed with Phil—dentistry can be stressful. “But you just sit there all day!” she protested.

  1. Most Dentists Are Honest
Sure you have bad dentists. But you have bad people in every profession. You have bad physicians, bad priests, bad politicians … you get the idea; every profession has its proverbial bad apples. Based on my experience, most dentists are trying their best to do right by their patients.

  1. Your Dentist Is Not Filthy Rich
Sure, he or she makes a good living. Most dentists are not starving and are in the upper middle class. However, ask them about their yachts, or private planes, or mansions, or vacation homes, and you’re likely to get a blank stare. Maybe in the old days dentists were printing money, but, these days, dentists are working stiffs just like everyone else.

Is there anything else that you wish your patients knew?

Andy Alas, DDS

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