There are a number of schools of thought about diagnosing dentistry.
Are we healers, sales people, business owners?
As Dentists, what are we really?
One school of thought will tell you that to *SELL* Dentistry is wrong.
“Let the patient decide” is what you’ll hear.
“Give the patient choices” is a phrase often espoused.
But what good are choices if the patient takes the poorer option?
Whose fault is it then, if the patient chooses the treatment that fails?
“Well I offered them two choices. They chose the wrong one.”
Thirty-one years ago a patient gave me the best bit of advice you’d ever want to hear.
“What are you telling me all these options for? You’re the one in the white coat.”
And then he said:
“That’s why I come to you. For your expert opinion. I don’t want choices. I just want you to tell me what I need to do.”
When I go to the skin specialist, I don’t want to hear what might work.
I just want to know what needs to be done to fix that sucker.
Sure a Band-Aid will cover over the lesion.
But it won’t fix my problem, and that is, the lesion needs to be removed.
So don’t tell me Band-Aid options.
Now in Dentistry, decay’s not going to kill you if left, like a skin cancer would.
But still, I think sometimes the real reason we feel the need to offer treatment choices, is not for the patient, but to appease the non-salesman in us, the Dentist.
We like to offer choices to make us feel better about it.
And a lot of the time that’s just wrong.
Have you ever jumped in a cab at an airport, told the driver where you want to go, and he asks you which way you want to go?
He makes the [correct] assumption that the last thing you want to be doing is to be spending one more minute than you have to be, stuck in traffic in his hot, fragrant cab.
So he takes you the quickest way.
The way that he knows is best to get you there quickest.
Because most of the time, he knows far better than you which is the best way.
In this instance, the cab driver is wearing the white coat.
I like to think that when I’m offering treatment, I’m offering the treatment that if Dentistry were free then this would be the treatment that is best.
I often like to say to the patient:
“If you were my son/brother/father, then this is the treatment that I’d be doing for you.”
Because, for a relative, you’d want them to have the best possible treatment.
And second best, is sometimes a long way second.
In dentistry, sometimes the thing about offering second best as an alternative is that when second best fails, we kick ourselves over and over that we should have been more forceful, more persuasive, in making sure that the patient had chosen the better option.
Sometimes even when we’re performing the second best treatment, we as the dentist wish that we’d been more persuasive, because the second best treatment is really not an option at all.
It’s often just a stall.
A limp, sloppy, lazy old stall.
Maybe, sometimes, when telling the patient what they need to have done, we do tell them the other options, and explain to them the shortcomings of those options.
But we need to be sure we’re not confusing the easily confused.
Most of the time, our patients don’t even want options.
They just want the guy in the white coat to tell them what they need.
They want to know what’s the best thing to do, and when.
And that’s it.
In a nutshell.
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