Can I wait a while?
Dr William Klein
I have been practicing Dentistry — treating patients — for 54½ years. The biggest challenge has been the hesitation of patients to have necessary treatment done.
People buy what they want, not necessarily what they need. Advertising’s mission is to convince people to want something a company has for sale, whether they really need it or not.
But health is not a commodity like a car, or a television, or a vacation.
Dental treatment can be subdivided into three general categories.
- Preventive Dentistry
Dentistry, of all the health professions, is the most prevention-oriented. We are “big” on preventing dental problems from happening in the first place. We promote personal oral hygiene as an obsession. Dentists advise patients to brush, floss, rinse, irrigate, stimulate, and massage their oral tissues; and have been doing that for longer than I have been a dentist.
We give our patients, for free, toothbrushes and toothpastes – we buy them at our own expense specifically to give them away – so that patients, by using these devices, will make the services that we provide unnecessary.
Think about it. What are the main preventive measures that Medicine used? Vaccinations and innoculations. That prevents many serious diseases that would, otherwise, kill people, like they used to, in the past. Instead of people dying young, they live for many years, and have many other medical issues for physicians to treat.
Dentists, on the other hand, try to make our services unnecessary altogether. It’s just that our patients don’t cooperate enough with us.
Consider this true example: Some years ago, my wife needed surgery. The surgeon explained the procedure and the risks, and the possibility of a certain complication. When asked what would happen should that complication occur, he explained that he would need to do another surgery and insert a medical mesh to correct the problem. I asked him if he ever inserted a mesh at the time of the surgery to prevent the complication. He answered that he never did, but that it was a good idea to. So we asked him to do it as a preventive measure, and he did, and it worked as intended.
So Medicine sees prevention somewhat differently than does Dentistry.
- Interceptive Dentistry
We have procedures, devices, and strategies at our disposal to intercept problems that we see; those that have occurred or are ready to occur. Space-maintainers, night-guards, crossbite correctors, are devices that help intercept developing problems.
Even a filling is an interceptive procedure, because it can prevent infection of the nerve, loss of space in the arch, and other things. Replacing a missing tooth intercepts the collapse of the adjacent teeth, and over-eruption of the opposing teeth.
- Corrective Dentistry
There are many corrective measures. Fixing the ravages of tooth decay with fillings – we call them restorations – is fundamental. Decay is an irreversible process, but it can be interrupted and stopped. It is important to restore teeth to natural appearance, shape, and function.
Crowns, bridges, removable partial dentures, dentures, and implants to help restore lost structures, and lost function.
Time is usually not on our side. Dental problems do not get better by themselves. There are rare situations where medication is sufficient to fix the problem.
Decayed teeth only get worse over time. Teeth do not normally hurt when we eat or drink. If they do, they won’t stop hurting by themselves. But if they do, it means there is a more serious problem.
Waiting for symptoms to go away – unless a dentist recommends that – is going to help the problem get worse; which means more complicated treatment.
Waiting usually makes corrective treatment harder for both the dentist and the patient; it often leads to complications that are better avoided by dealing with the problem a lot earlier.
If you’ve got a dental problem that you’ve been putting off, what are you waiting for?