No two dental practices are alike! Each takes on the characteristics of the practitioner and the supporting team. Every office/patient interaction is the key to how that office “feels” when you walk in the door. Some practices may feel “clinical and efficient”, while others feel somewhat more home spun and laid back. This approach is often reflected in the office’s treatment preferences as well.
In my experience, all dentists will suggest what they feel to be the very best plan for any given patient. The differences between the treatment suggested by one dentist and that of another reflects that dentist’s preferences based on his or her experience. Thus, differing treatment plans do not necessarily reflect any deficiency in either dentist’s judgment.
I presented a complex case situation to a group of 15 dentists this past week. Even among this group of like-minded dentists, there were many different opinions as to how to approach this patient’s care. Some dentists said they would not do anything, while others offered very sophisticated treatment plans.
It is important to remember that there are numerous ways to treat the same situation, and it is always important for the dentist to tailor the treatment plan for each patient’s specific circumstances. A major part of those circumstances may be financial, and since different treatment plans can vary a great deal in cost, it is helpful if the dentist takes the patient’s ability to pay into account.
Think of treatment plans like various models of cars at dealerships. All of the models are new, have warranties and will work well out of the lot. The higher end models, however, have some advantages not found in the less expensive models. Some options add years to the life of the car. Some add to the appearance and enjoyment of driving it.
Dental treatment plans are like that too. Saving a badly damaged tooth with a root canal and a crown will preserve it for a long time, but it is a larger investment than the alternative extraction. Replacing a missing tooth may be done with an implant or fixed bridge (not removable), or a removable partial denture. One is a larger investment than another. The implant, for example, provides a more natural solution, but requires a higher level of care. A dentist should be able to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the various options, and allow the patient to make the decision.
All dentists who have graduated from an accredited dental school should be technically competent to perform any procedure that they personally feel comfortable with. But it is important to remember that each one is an individual, and no two dentists can perform exactly the same technical procedure in exactly the same way.
As a patient, you have no way to be able to judge the quality of the clinical treatment performed. Did it hurt? Does it look and feel good? Do I feel the investment was worth it? Those are the parameters most patients use to assess success. This starts with the trust in the dentist/patient relationship.
Over the years, I have developed a deep respect for those who practice dentistry. Many of my colleagues have impressed me with their technical abilities, and others with their communication skills. There are many great provider options for patients to choose from.
Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. He has a special interest in treating snoring, sleep apnea and TMJ problems. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have, please email them to him at firstname.lastname@example.org