By: Dr. Scott R. Harden
In all aspects of life, choices are good. The American way is to have the freedom of choices, which offers us a better way to achieve the outcome we desire and which better fits our needs and wants. Over the years, choices have grown in every industry you can think of, and this includes the field of dentistry.
Years ago, dentistry offered patients a very limited set of services, including silver fillings, extractions, dentures, root canals and gold crowns. Today, dental fillings alone are available in hundreds of varieties that offer amazing results functionally and esthetically. Tremendous new discoveries in the last few decades have revolutionized every aspect of dentistry, including such areas as high-tech equipment, computers, and dental implants, all of which ultimately result in patients having many more ways to receive their dental care. These expanded dental choices means you the patient now have an amazing new opportunity to be more involved in the dental procedures that best meet your needs and wants.
Lifestyles are more complex today. We drive more sophisticated cars that make our lifestyles more reliable, we benefit from the convenience of cell phones and computers and we have better health — all thanks to modern technology. Each of us wants more out of life and expects better health. I observe this same expectation from my patients every day in my dental practice as well. The bar is much higher today as compared to when I started dentistry in the 1980’s, simply because it can be. Patients expect better quality dentistry today with the highest esthetic results, which translates to a more sophisticated appearance, a more reliable result, and a more convenient lifestyle.
Recently, a man named Dennis came into my practice to discuss his choices of dental care to replace his failing upper and lower back teeth. Dennis is a former Vietnam veteran that works hard and wants to enjoy his life without suffering from bad teeth. Dennis wore removable upper and lower partial dentures, which he stated “he absolutely did not like to wear”. Years ago partial dentures would have been his only option, but in the 21st century, Dennis had choices. After a thorough diagnosis utilizing digital cameras and digital x-rays, he observed photos of his teeth, and following a long discussion about treatment options, Dennis chose the path of implants and cemented fixed bridges to replace his missing back teeth. Implants and bridges are not inexpensive, but quality of life was a factor that inspired Dennis to choose this treatment plan because it met his needs and wants. As a side note, his health is greatly improved because his bad teeth are removed and the chronic infection he was suffering from is now gone.
Valerie has always suffered from bad teeth. She went to the dentist as a young adult and was treated for over 30 cavities, existing on all surfaces of her front and back teeth. She had a high fever as a young girl and her teeth were greatly affected, becoming both weak and discolored. As you may imagine, dentistry was not Valerie’s favorite topic. There is an ironic twist to many patients like Valerie. Because of the condition of her teeth and extensive dental care, not necessarily a good experience in years past, Valerie has avoided the dentist, which only made her dental condition much worse. She had only received abbreviated dental care for emergency needs. Valerie’s teeth were on their last legs, figuratively speaking. Her front teeth and back teeth were severely worn, chipping away because of weak enamel, and subconsciously grinding her teeth at night. Valerie knew her teeth were in bad shape and wanted an opinion about how dentistry could meet her needs and wants.
With tears of embarrassment about avoiding the dentist for so long, she wanted to finally have strong teeth that didn’t hurt all the time, and that were not dark gray in color so she could show off her teeth proudly and not have to put her hand in front of her mouth every time she smiled. We openly discussed her dental options, and with her input, we arrived at a plan that met her emotional and financial needs. Valerie was focused on the outcome, which was great. Emotionally and psychologically, however, she needed to know what the process was, be involved, and make choices toward an end result she wanted. A concise plan was developed, was carefully explained and allowed Valerie to develop confidence that would ultimately allow her to be more responsive throughout her treatment. Patients with anxiety or a history of just avoiding the dentist for whatever reason need to be an active participant in the planning phases and have choices so they can feel they have chosen what is best for them.
We all have better lifestyles today than decades ago. Your health is always #1 on the list. Take care of your teeth, for they contribute tremendously to the quality of your life, especially when you’re older. The choices available at the dentist are amazing and offer great options and more flexibility than ever before. If you’ve put off going to the dentist for too long, call today for an appointment and find the result that fits YOUR needs and wants.