Everyday, all over the world, there occurs an opportunity to raise dental intellect. In case you haven’t noticed there has been a shortage of dental intellect and that may be a big obstacle to achieving better dentistry.
I heard former Arkansas Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee talk about curing the health crisis in this country by educating people about the chronic illnesses of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Altzheimers. He contends that by educating the public we will save billions of dollars in healthcare costs. I agree…but it’s difficult when no one is listening.
Huckabee has an emotional stake in this cause. He’s a diabetic. His personal story about weight loss and diabetes is quite compelling.
I am a diabetic. I have personal stake in controlling my health, and I do. But not everybody takes their health that seriously. That is why it’s up to the health professionals to act as leaders and communicate the importance of all health, dental or otherwise.
So, let me get off of my soapbox and explain how many dentists ignore this, by not taking the opportunity to communicate, educate, motivate (choose any word you like), and lead people toward better health.
Patients show up to dental practices everyday with urgent problems. The emergency is generally pain, but it may include swelling, infection or cosmetic compromises.
In my practice I treat the emergency. Even if I have a twp hour hole in my schedule…I treat the emergency.
After years of doing it this way, I am convinced it is the right thing to do. I never do definitive emergency treatment.
In my youth I did. I did emergency crowns, veneers, root canals, and even once I did a complete maxillary restoration. Most of the time, all I did was create a short term relationship that never changed anyone’s long term heath, or attitude toward health.
Leaders understand the value of providing long-term value. They have a different set of drivers.
This causes me to think about what is driving dentistry these days? Who is driving dentistry these days?
I think that is a problem that effects the whole dental community, from patients to doctors and staff. Short term thinking has long term effects (Strawberry shortcake anyone?)
Dentistry has changed over the last 50 years. I wonder if this short term thinking had anything to do with it.
I used to call this single tooth dentistry, or body part dentistry…but it goes much deeper. It’s a way of living. A philosophy of practice and of life.
My solution? When a patient comes in with an urgent problem…they are at their highest emotional level. They listen because they truly have skin in the game.
What an opportunity!
Step back. Take care of their felt need (not yours).
Use the opportunity to explain (this is a skill in itself) why dentistry is important. They are all ears at this point. You may not succeed with every new patient, but at least if enough dentists began to do a complete examination geared toward long term health—well that might just make a dent in the universe.
That is why I promote the complete examination for every new patient. Sure it takes time…but time well spent for all concerned. Help make the complete exam a standard operating procedure. So many mistakes can be traced back to ignoring this one thing.
I think that is what Mike Huckabee means when he says chronic disease is our biggest problem. We need leaders at every level…especially at the level of the health care professional.