Three things a dentist is very used to hearing:
- But it doesn’t hurt, doc!
- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
- I only want to do the things I need.
These comments are generally made after hearing a recommendation for dental treatment. And the truth is, they are all understandable things for a patient to say. But sometimes these comments indicate that there is not a complete awareness of the existing condition. This is generally the fault of the dentist. I will try to explain why these comments may not reflect the best interests of the patient:
Lack of pain is not an indication of health.
- Traditionally, there are many patients who only come to the dentist when they are in pain. Pain is an excellent reason to be checked out as it is usually an indication that something is wrong. However, a lack of pain is not an indication of health. Many people receive a cancer diagnosis with no history of pain. Pain is not the only sign that a problem exists, however it’s the one that grabs our attention. From a dental perspective, the majority of our patients have some amount of periodontal or gum disease which is an infection. In the majority of cases, this condition is also completely painless, yet an infection exists. There are many examples in the dental office of a condition or disease process that, if treated early, patients could avoid pain entirely. Often if one waits until there is pain, the treatment is likely to be more involved, more challenging, and more expensive! And believe it or not, dentists don’t enjoy seeing patients in pain and would much prefer to save patients from ending up in their chair in that condition by treating proactively. A more enjoyable experience for all!
Let’s identify what’s about to break early.
- Similar to #1, people often assume that if something doesn’t hurt, then it can’t be broken. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the biggest benefits to seeing a dentist on a regular basis is to identify those things that are ‘broken’ as early as possible. Examples include fillings that are leaking and have decay, or areas in between teeth where cavities have started that are diagnosed through x-rays. Another analogy that we often make is with respect to cars. If you have regular maintenance on your vehicles, there may seem to be additional unnecessary cost, however, the vehicle will last much longer with far fewer major repairs, actually saving a great deal of money in the long run. Teeth and gums are very similar in that regard – it is cliché, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
It is always the patient’s choice of what treatment to accept.
- This is the hardest phrase of the three to manage. As has been discussed in a previous column, there is very little dentistry that is ‘needed’. People can live without any teeth at all, although we believe that life is better with teeth. Acute abscesses and pain are things that definitely fall into the category of needing to be treated, but outside of that, it is always the patient’s choice as to what if any treatment they choose to do. Again, it is critical that the patient understands their condition so that they can make an informed decision. In all aspects of life, each of us has different criteria for determining what is “needed”. Allow your dentist to provide you with all the information that they have about your mouth, and don’t assume that they expect you to take action on every treatment simply because they mentioned it. It’s our legal obligation to inform you, it’s your choice as to what is needed.
We fully acknowledge that visits to the dentist can be very difficult for a variety of reasons. But if there is an understanding that we will support any informed decision, we can avoid many of the struggles typically associated with dentistry. As always, if you would like to ask any specific questions or just look for additional dental information, please visit www.drdrew.ca .
Should you have any questions that we might help with, please contact us at [email protected], or call at (705) 788-3067. And for more information on our practice, please visit www.drdrew.ca.
You may also be interested in these articles by Dr. Drew:
Dr. Drew explains why dental implants are a good option when replacing a missing tooth
Dr. Drew earned an Honours Bachelor Degree in Physiology from the University of Toronto in 1993, and his Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Michigan in 1998.
He has undertaken extensive post-graduate training in cosmetic and neuromuscular rehabilitation, which led to further training in orthodontics, sleep dentistry, and dental implants. Dr. Markham has fellowships from the Las Vegas Institute (LVI) and the International Association of Physiologic Aesthetics (IAPA). He has served as one of three Canadian clinical instructors, and also as a regional director for the Las Vegas Institute since 2008. Most recently he served as president of the International Association of Physiologic Aesthetics – a 500 member organization dedicated to the comprehensive care of their patients.
Dr. Drew along with his wife, Janet, and their 2 sons, came to Huntsville in 2005.