Choosing A Good Dentist

Choosing a good dentist

Choosing anything be it a service or commodity can oftentimes be a daunting task.

A commodity is easier to choose.

You know what you want and you know what your price range is. You can actually feel and see the article that you are buying in making your choice. Finding the shop to go to is challenging. The lead may be an advert in a newspaper, magazine, radio advert or word-of-mouth. How far does one have to travel to reach the shop and what guarantee is there that the article is in stock? A telephone call can help.

Services are very different.                                                                                    

I know the story of somebody who entered into a business association based on an agreement that was drafted by an “experienced” lawyer. On presentation the agreement ostensibly covered all eventualities and was signed. The financial manager was duly appointed. Several years went past with the relationship based on the agreement working well until there was a takeover of the business. Now the new owner was faced with making staff changes. To his great surprise the financial manager found himself retrenched. The agreement was flawed. It had a loophole.

What is experience?

Is it perhaps doing the wrong thing year in year out? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and when it doesn’t, the disappointment is real. Experience means knowledge and expertise. It doesn’t necessarily mean years on the job.

And what about fees for professional services? A patient once told me that his father said “whatever the professional asks for, just pay!”

How’s that for an undertaking. But there was a proviso. You have the right to choose the professional and once that choice has been made, relax with confidence.

So how do you go about choosing a good dentist?

  • Is it based on the appearance of the office?
  • The friendliness of the staff?
  • The way the telephone was answered?
  • The modernness of the equipment?
  • Whether an x-ray apron is used?
  • The location and adequate parking?
  • Good sterilisation of instruments?
  • The lightness of touch?
  • A painless injection?
  • Effective anaesthesia?
  • Good people skills?

All these are things that one can feel and see but dentistry is different. You cannot see what the dentist is doing. It is totally blind!

And so the question remains, how do you choose a good dentist?                      

Let me tell you another story which I’m sure you will enjoy.

The owl and the peacock were having an argument as to who was the most beautiful bird in the world. The owl said “I am” and the peacock said “I am “. They agreed to resolve the argument by consulting the first animal that they met in the forest and whoever won would bite off the other bird’s tail. Off they went and came upon the wild boar. They asked him to judge the case and eagerly awaited his opinion.

In my opinion said the pig, having thought for a while, “It is the owl”.  The owl rightfully bit off the peacock’s tail and the peacock ran out of the forest crying bitterly and uncontrollably.

The peacock then came across the wise old fox and she told him the story. Said the fox sagely and compassionately, “Look whose opinion you asked”. On what basis is word-of-mouth established?

I asked a periodontist colleague his valued opinion in choosing a good dentist and this is what his patients have told him: –

From the perspective of a layperson I think the primary motivation to select a dentist is the testimonials from other patients of the dentist. Another factor patients look at is the qualifications of the dentist and the institutions from which they were obtained. Affiliations to groups or bodies are also looked at. Patients also look at number of years in practice. If one has a website, patients like to look at photos of work done by the dentist.

Word-of-mouth is very powerful, but consider this…

In the South African Dental Journal March 2016,Vol71 Dr S Naidoo, senior professor and principal specialist, faculty of dentistry, University of Western Cape writes the following:-

The profession of dentistry has both benevolent and protective aspects with regards to duty of care to patients, to always try to do the best for patients and shall for the principles of non-maleficent’s – to do no harm. This principle expresses the concept that professionals have a duty to protect the patient from no harm.

General dentists are usually the first professional patients visit, seeking an evaluation of the oral and dental needs. The general dentist may then treat the patient or may refer the patient for speciality care depending on the conditions which have been assessed and diagnosed. This is because amongst general dentist there are differing levels of expertise, exposure to postgraduate training, and confidence in undertaking treatment of more advanced dental conditions. Whenever necessary, timely and appropriate referral is an ethical imperative which fulfils a professional duty to a patient.

The general dentist is expected to recognise when specialist care is more appropriate to the patient’s needs and completion of the treatment plan and should then refer appropriately.

Interestingly, general dental practitioners are entitled to carry out all dental procedures including those falling within the scope of specialists (provided they have the training).

Now, having made the choice of dentist by whatever criteria, are you satisfied that time has been spent on listening carefully to your past dental history?  Has the initial consultation included gathering of all the diagnostic records needed to formulate a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan?

Has a subsequent planning appointment taken place to empower you as the patient to make an informed decision and evaluate the possible treatment options?

The choice is yours… Choose wisely.


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