Today I’m going to discuss a topic that came up this past weekend. While speaking with some friends that are not my patients one of them asked me, “Why does it seem that every time I visit my dentist there is a new problem?”
My response was, that’s a big question; however, I have found there is an approach that helps avoid this. The approach really has two critical elements - first, a thorough comprehensive exam, and then second, the use of co-discovery.
A thorough comprehensive exam takes time, more time than people are used to. In my experience most people are used to an exam that is a short visit in the midst of a hygiene visit. Many dentists are also busy and often trapped into rushing from patient to patient. So taking time is a paradigm shift for both the dentist and the patient. Taking time allows for the asking of questions and the sharing of answers. It allows a thorough evaluation of all aspect of your dental health, and it allows us to tie this in with your overall health. There are many profound links between the health of a person’s mouth and their overall health, and the mouth is often the first visible place that disease in the body presents itself.
Co-discovery literally means that we (me the dentist and you the client) learn about your particular situation at the same time. We take high quality digital photographs and look at things together. This allows you to see what I see - everything. It allows you to ask questions and understand how things got that way. It gives me a chance to play CSI – to discover the etiology/cause of what it is we are looking at. You can identify with all your concerns/problems (assuming there are some) and then by extension be involved in solving them. In short, getting clear about where you are and how you got there leads to the options you have for changing those patterns/situations.
There is a third element to consider as well. Dentistry is “man made” and does not last forever. It needs maintenance and occasionally replacement. Regular hygiene visits and examinations are no different than regular oil changes and service visits for your car. They are very effective at early detection and prevention of bigger (more costly) problems. Despite regular oil changes and service visits for your car – bigger problems sometimes still happen. The same is true for your mouth. Think of how often you chew and swallow and clench your teeth together (when you are lifting something heavy) and it becomes easier to understand how things can sometimes happen.
Figuring things out big picture takes time but avoids surprises. It allows for understanding and planning.