What 6 dentists wish patients knew about their job

Six dentists recently shared with Becker's several things they wish patients knew about their job, oral health and the dental industry. 

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: What do you wish patients understood about your job?

Louis Cooper, DDS. Pediatric Dentist and Founder of OralHealthforkids.com: As a pediatric dentist, it is important for parents to understand that having a dental screening and preventive visit for children at an early age (establishment of a dental home by age 1) is vital to initiate the groundwork for good oral health in the future. The misconception that we are "only treating baby teeth which are going to fall out anyway" can be an extremely costly notion. This rationale often originates from a lack of knowledge and is not uncommonly used to avoid care because of anxiety associated with the dental visit. The important role we have as professionals is to educate the public to understand that the depth of our objectives is not only limited to treating baby teeth but goes well beyond what is preconceived. This is accomplished at dental visits by way of a fun child-friendly environment, strong empathetic relationships and an informative experience dispelling the fears that serve as a barrier to optimal health.

E. M. Ferneini, DMD, MD. Greater Waterbury Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons (Waterbury and Cheshire, Conn.): In order to have a successful practice, you have to be a caring individual and treat each patient with compassion. I wish patients understood that we strive for the best outcomes. However, any dental treatment is based on the patient's collaboration and compliance. Patients should understand that being proactive about their health can improve their health in general, including their oral health. Improving our patient outcomes relies on having them be compliant with our instructions. 

Joseph Graskemper, DDS. The Bellport (N.Y.) Village Dentist: Although patients think the cost of dental care is high with or without insurance, the learned technical skills are only part of the equation to provide proper quality care. There are the chairside manner skills, working with the patient’s insurance (if insurance is accepted), staff issues, material and equipment needs, lab collaboration and the cost of dental school loans. I wish patients would understand all these supporting services must be balanced for proper care and remain a viable healthcare business to be present for them in the future. This balancing of all that is needed to provide dental care should be more promoted and valued. 

Jonathon Jundt. MD, DDS. Chief Medical Officer at Allied OMS (Southlake, Texas): 1. While we discuss postoperative care, it would be great if patients better understood the deleterious effects of alcohol, nicotine, vaping, recreational drugs, inactivity and poor nutrition on oral surgical outcomes.

2. Also, it would be helpful if patients understood the extensive post-dental school training oral and maxillofacial surgeons undergo to provide safe and cost-effective outpatient anesthesia and superior surgical outcomes.  

Barry Lyon, DDS. Chief Dental Officer for the Division of Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry Dental Care Alliance (Sarasota, Fla.): I'd like patients to realize how difficult it can be to treat patients while successfully operating a dental practice. Patients are unaware of the many challenges dentists face multiple times every day. Between managing staff, operating a business, dealing with regulatory requirements, plus the expectations from patients that the dentist is perfect, a dentist's day can be stressful and rarely goes as smoothly as hoped. Fortunately, the rewards dentists receive from making lives better offsets these issues.  

Rick Mars, DDS. The Dental Care Group (Florida): The one thing that patients need to understand about dentistry is the overall benefits and value of having a healthy mouth. Too often the perception of dentistry is that it is purely cosmetic and therefore elective. We spend time in almost every examination explaining to patients that this is the one part of their body they can 100 percent control the health of. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent diseases such as diabetes or cancer, but patients can choose to have a healthy mouth. The good news is that many patients eventually get it, but, unfortunately, some never will until it’s too late.

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