I’ve always considered myself conservative in my approach to dental care. Some of it might be my personality and personal philosophy. I’m not a very pushy person and I don’t appreciate when people are pushy with me. I appreciate when people are honest with me, and I am honest in my dealings with others. I attribute a lot of my approach to my mentors. So many great dentists have influenced me and spent quality time with me teaching me what the profession is all about. I’m incredibly fortunate in that regard. I have so many examples around me of conservative and compassionate dentists that remind me that I am on the right path.
There’s actually one thing that has taught me how to be conservative in my approach to care more than anything else. That’s simply being in the same place for several years. As a clinician, seeing my own dental treatment come back year after year has been incredibly instructive to me. I get to see what works for people, what people like, and what people don’t like. More importantly, seeing my own “non-treatment” has been just as helpful, if not more. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chosen not to perform a procedure and it proved to be the best option for the patient. Less is more is generally true when it comes to dental treatment.
Dental care is at its best when the patient’s wishes are guiding the treatment plan. Things work best when I offer solutions to patients rather than tell them what to do. Some patients want to wait until a tooth with a small crack in it breaks before they get a crown. Others may want to address the same exact problem right away, fearing that it could get worse at the worst possible time. Being open to what both patients want and not trying to force them into what I want creates trusting relationships with both types of patients. That’s what I want, to be there for both patients.
My practice is privately owned by my wife and myself, so we don’t have the annoyance of investors or regional managers telling us how to treat patients. I think we can handle it on our own. Sometimes, I sure wouldn’t mind the help. Especially when it comes to parts of the business I don’t find terribly interesting like HR, marketing, taxes, etc. an outside expert might come in handy. There’s a big cost getting involved with a dental corporation, and it’s a cost I’m not willing to pay.
There’s a recent trend in dentistry with patients coming into my practice with incredibly aggressive treatment ideas. Many patients get really excited when they see “All on Four” commercials on TV. After watching a few hours of that, they’re convinced dental implants can solve the world’s problems! I see patients every month that are interested in getting an “All on Four”. They’re sick of their teeth and want a quick fix. While this a great option for many patients, I do come across a significant number of patients that want this treatment that could be treated much more conservatively. There are many patients that can benefit much more by simply fixing up what they still have. It’s important that patients know what all of their options are before they make a decision. If a more conservative approach to care is an option, most patients prefer it.