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How to Decide on Dental Treatment


Patients head to dental clinics to fix their teeth or to get advice on their teeth. More often than not they have specific thoughts in mind. To us practitioners some of these thoughts make sense while others not so much. In close communities such as ours, word travels fast. Patients hear of different kinds of treatments carried out, what went wrong, timeframes, costs etc. They quote how this and that was done and how well it worked out for them but not so much for others.

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Patients approach their dentist quoting and demanding specific treatment regimes. The dentist then examines and proposes different treatments. Often patients seek a second opinion either because the dentist disagrees with their proposal or because the patient wishes to verify the new proposal with another dentist. Proposals often vary from one dentist to another. Patients often insist and quote how well a treatment worked for her/his friend/family member and wish that for themselves.  

In Maltese we have a saying ‘mitt bniedem mitt fhema’ meaning a hundred people will give a hundred different opinions. This also applies to dentists but luckily most dentists should agree on at least 2-3 lines of different treatment for that specific patient. Obviously patients cannot be seen by so many dentists to decide on the best for them. General dental practitioners should be in a position to recognise whether the patient in their chair can and should be treated by them, or whether they should be referred to their more experienced and qualified colleagues.

At times general dental practitioners may also perform procedures done by specialists. Ongoing dental education and professional development courses help expand our skills and experience allowing us to take on and offer more treatment modalities.

All this is very confusing! To top it up, prices for the same treatment also vary. This is due to a number of factors; experience, qualifications, materials used, set-up, guarantee given and most of all service offered. For example patients quote ‘but the other dentist said it can be done for this amount and now you are saying it will cost more and must be done differently’. Believe it or not this is often done by email or telephone. Patients call the clinic or send radiographs by email and say ‘I need this and that, how much will it cost’ They expect to get a concrete figure without even getting to the clinic or even without taking a radiograph. This is very frustrating for a dentist who wishes to offer the best advice and perform the right book-standard treatment, assuring the patient that their treatment will last.

Sometimes old-fashioned ways of treating patients, not referring to techniques but to good chair-side manners, is the better way to advise patients, to be honest to patients, to have piece of mind that the patient will walk out happy and would have received what was best for them not for the dentist or practice. It’s a fine line. Don’t rush into things, get the information and make rational decisions with the help of a trustworthy dentist. Ask your dentist!

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