“Closing the gap between Dentists and the Public”
Until recently, dentists concentrated on straightforward, easily definable tasks. Cavities were filled. Toothaches were treated. Stained teeth were cleaned up. Hopeless teeth were extracted. Crowded teeth were straightened. Over time, dental patients learned how to identify and communicate their needs and had a good idea of what dentists could do to meet those needs. Things are different now. Waves of plastic surgery, makeovers, and the desire for eternal youth have delivered a different kind of patient onto the shores of dentistry. These patients are asking for a lot more than dental care. They want dental beauty. They want a perfect smile.
In contrast to their cavity-filling years, however, patients today do not know how to express their needs and desires. They do not know what procedures are available. They’re not even sure that their family dentist is up to performing the new procedures they’re hearing and reading about. They worry that their dentist will be offended if they ask for a referral.
In the aesthetic world outside dentistry – such as plastic surgery – it’s quite acceptable for people to leave their doctor and seek expert help themselves. They do not have to have prior relationship with that expert. In the world of dentistry, however, you can’t just go to another dentist, because that would require dental records to be changed.
Seeking an elective dental procedure is therefore quite difficult for members of the public. How do you get a second opinion without upsetting the dentist you may have no problem with? Many dentists are confused, too. They may have the technical skills to perform the underlying procedures that will result in improved smiles, but they often do not know how to analyze and quantify actual smiles, much less desired ones. It’s easier for a dentist to deal with a smile problem when the person’s teeth are in a bad shape. The problem comes when a patient’s smile problem is not that serious. In that case, there is a danger that the patient – and the dentist – will be surprised by the results of the procedure, with the patient saying, “That’s not what I wanted at all.”
Fortunately, for everyone, most dentists know not to get involved if they cannot understand a request or come up with a clear solution to a request.”
Edward S. Philips, D.D.S.