I sit down next to my patient who has just had her teeth cleaned. The hygienist gives me a quick update of the patients health history, how the patient’s teeth and gums look and alerts me to a couple of teeth that we’ve been keeping an eye on. One tooth has a big silver filling in it with some pretty suspicious looking cracks and the tooth behind it has a pretty suspicious looking shadow around another large silver filling.
The patient says, “I’m not having any troubles with any teeth, doctor.”
I take a look at the teeth. They’re in trouble. Although I don’t have a functioning crystal ball, I can see that one tooth is at risk of breaking. I can follow a crack down the side of the tooth and I can see some discoloration along the crack. Not a good sign. And the filling looks like it’s starting to break down at the edges. The other tooth has a small to moderate sized cavity under the filling. The hygienist and I take a photo of the offending teeth and show it to the patient on the iPad.
I point out the fracture, the broken down filling and the suspicious discoloration. The patient can see my concerns. I explain my treatment recommendation: place a crown on one tooth and replace the filling in another.
So, she immediately makes an appointment to have the work done, right?
Well, sometimes. Sometimes it’s not enough to just describe the problem. Sometimes it’s not enough to show them the problem in living color. Sometimes, patients have objections.
Assuming the patient understands the problem and understands the solution I’m proposing, there are four main objections patients typically have: time, fear, cost and trust.
- Time: Sometimes the patient is just too busy to do anything about it right now. It’s not that they won’t do anything, but right now isn’t good. Perhaps they have their daughter’s wedding coming up. Maybe they’ve got everyone coming to Thanksgiving dinner at their house. Often, it’s other medical issues that are just more pressing at the moment. It’s happened many times that a patient breaks a tooth a couple days before they’re scheduled to have a hip replacement or some other surgery they’ve been waiting to have for awhile. When time is the issue, it’s rarely a big problem.
- Fear: Some people are going to avoid dental work because they’re afraid of the process. No surprise there. A lot of adults had bad experiences at the dentist when they were younger. Some folks have had experienced negative stuff in the dental office as adults. It seems like everyone has a horror story of their experiences in the dental office. Technology and techniques in dentistry have come a long way over the years. We can usually keep patients comfortable through procedures and afterwards. For those that need help with their anxiety, dentistry has various pharmacological options to help keep patients relaxed throughout procedures. However, this fear is real. It keeps a lot of people out of the dentist and in pain. It takes a lot more good experiences to outweigh past bad experiences, so we go out of our way not to be the bad experience that a patient remembers for the rest of their life! If fear is your objection, we’re happy to talk to you about it and see what we can do to help control that fear.
- Cost: Cost is always a concern. It’s not always an objection, but no one wants to spend any more than is necessary to get a great result. Dentistry can be expensive. Especially if you’re surprised by something that you can’t plan for. That’s why we believe strongly in preventive visits. If you come in regularly and have us look things over, there’s less likely a need for the expensive stuff. And if there is need, we can plan for it so it isn’t such a financial hit. On the other hand, if there is one objection that keeps most people from getting the best dental care, it’s cost. Many people can’t or won’t spend any more than the absolute minimum on dental health. I’m frustrated by this on a daily basis. There are some pretty amazing treatments that dentistry has to offer that people don’t choose because of money. I often have to remind myself of my duty to patients, which is to diagnose their problems, explain treatment options (including the financial arrangements) and let the patient choose. Sometimes it’s hard not to take a patient’s rejection of these awesome treatments personally.
- Trust: I’ve written about this on several occasions in the past. Sometimes a patient just doesn’t trust that the dentist has their best interests in mind. It’s not the timing, it’s not the fear and it’s not the cost. It’s just that they don’t believe that they need that treatment. I feel helpless as a dentist when this happens. When a patient feels that way, they probably need a change. Perhaps a second opinion or even a new dentist. If you don’t trust what your dentist is telling you, do yourself a favor and do something different. Whatever you do, don’t just keep feeling like your dentist is trying to sell you unnecessary treatment. If the relationship doesn’t work, move on. Seriously! It will be better for everyone!
These are the 4 main objections I run into on a regular basis. Sometimes I’m able to help a patient move past them. Other times, not so much. I keep coming back to what my duty is. I can’t make choices for patients. What I can do is: diagnose, explain the options and allow the patient to make the right choice for themselves. I’ll keep doing my best at that!
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If you’re looking for a dentist in Saginaw, we’re always happy to accept new patients! Especially ones that want to punch tooth decay in the face! You can request an appointment online or call the office at (989) 799-9133. And, as always, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I always answer my own emails!