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A Vicious Cycle of Truth and Trust

August 21, 2013

Filed under: Practice — Dr. Buck @ 4:32 pm

Dentistry has been characterized in several ways such as a vocation, profession, or even industry. But another way would be that dentisty is its own culture. As dentists, we are influenced by innate beliefs, patient behaviors, collegue influence, business pressures, among others. But as a group, we are pretty much siloed and isolated, especially if one is a solo practitioner. Over time, dentistry has become more scientifically precise, technologically driven, and philosophically refined. That leads to a disconnect between those in the dental field and those that are not. It’s hard for a non-dentist to grasp the scope and meaning of modern dentistry, as they cling onto their own cultural memories and experiences from previous eras of dentistry. Things are moving so fast, “modern dentistry” should be considered dentistry of the past two years. And in a time, when we move faster and faster through life, the time is not always spent explaining the benefits to recommended care.
This disconnect between patients and dentists can be quite a wide gap. Dentists see promise, many patients still see pain. Dentists celebrate problem-solving, patients still cringe at cost. Dentists strive for durability, some patients see unrealistic permanence. It’s a matter of communication and expecations that really can reduce that distance between each side. The more we dentists embed ourselves in the values of our culture, the harder we have to work to understand our patients’ external points of view.
Professors always used to tell me that you have to raise the patient’s dental IQ and educate them then your patient acceptance will skyrocket. Patient education only works to the extent that doctors recognize what laypeople already expect. I’ve discovered that a dentist needs to ask questions to determine the wants and concerns that the patient has, not the other way around. Once that is determined, then a dialogue can begin and some education can enlightened some areas that will help the patient understand. Many times, as I peel back the layers of the onion during a patient consult, I’ve discovered that what is keeping the patient from not scheduling their recommended treatment was something different than what I thought.
The take home message is that your doctor (MD, DDS, DO, OMFS, PhD, etc) should always create a dialogue with you as a patient. It’s your teeth, your eyes, your body, so make sure you get the explanation and education you expect. But that goes both ways, you as a patient need to let your provider know your expecations and wants so that dialogue can begin. This dialogue will put you both in a position to have a successful outcome.
I am a member of several associations including the ADA, ODA, CDA, AGD, AOS, DSN. I’ll discuss all those acronyms at another time, but they all have helped me in one way or another in becoming a better dentist and supporting the dental cause to provide good care to our patients. One of my favorites is the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). Boring name, but they provide really good continuing education and reading sources. I was reading an article by Eric Curtis, DDS, MA, MAGD who the editor of their magazine. So some of this content from this post comes from Dr. Curtis and I wanted to give some credit to him.

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