Friday, January 22, 2016

Give Peace (err…veneers Nos. 7 to 10) a Chance

In my years as a dentist, I’ve learned many things (and there’s a lot to learn in this profession). Learning is a daily reoccurring theme, and I love it. Besides making standard clinical improvements and grasping new techniques, where I’ve matured most in my more than six years as a practitioner is in the realm of treatment planning and presentation. It’s an art form, and I’ve only begun to paint my canvas, but I have a pretty good base established so far.

I have an associate in my practice, and I appreciate everything she does for us, but when I look over her X-rays after comprehensive exams or peek at her treatment plans, I sigh because I can see myself — my younger self. I see that time when I would have tunnel vision of a single surface on a single tooth in one quadrant. Not to mention, the time when I would have forgotten the mantra that there’s a head attached to the tooth. It’s easy to do, and we’ve all been there. It’s a natural growth spectrum we as doctors go through, so I let it slide and have faith the growth will come.

Some of my worst regrets were doing an endo/core/crown on a patient, only to realize afterward that the patient was overwhelmed with the cost of that single tooth and wasn’t able to afford to treat any of the other 10 teeth that needed immediate attention. I no longer do limited exams. If you’re in my chair, you’re going to get the whole shebang. If money is an issue, I make sure to prioritize my patients’ most urgent needs, but I want them to be able to weigh the options to treat a chief concern they have, knowing what’s ahead on their dental radar.

Along those same lines, I’ve expanded my mind when it comes to cosmetic consultations as well — hence, the title of this blog. Again, I use my associate (and thus, me, five years ago) as an example. If a patient presents with a chief concern to fix the esthetics of tooth No. 8, it’s worth it to have a conversation with the patient about teeth Nos. 6, 7, 9, 10, and 11 as well. Give it a chance. Wax it up, and let your patients feast their eyes on what kind of magic you can do. Or they present wanting a lower denture — and I make sure they’re aware that my standard of care is a two-implant overdenture. Steak tastes much better when a patient’s denture isn’t flopping in the breeze (or in the nightstand drawer).

Already too often in my career, I’ve opted to present my patients with the affordable treatment option without giving any second thought to approaching them with the comprehensive, ideal, or advanced plan. And too often, we’ve gotten to the end of implementing an affordable plan, only to have an unhappy patient or a regretful doctor. Your patient will feel special if you give his or her case extra attention to detail — and take the time to explain all options, regardless of cost. You might be surprised at the positive response you get. Hey, give it a chance!

Donald Murry III, DMD

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