Wouldn't It Be Easier If..?
I have been practicing dentistry for 21+ years. As I go merrily, and not so merrily, along my life path I am constantly looking for ways to make my chosen profession better and easier. I suppose we could discuss at length whether better and easier is a worthwhile goal. In recent dental forum history, various pundits have discussed at length what our noble professional organization's meaning, purpose, and goals should be. I, being rather simple minded, as displayed so well on these humble pages, feel that the criteria for choosing our professional organization's paths should be held to a simple standard. Does, what the ADA decides to pursue, promote better and easier dentistry?
The ADA serves many important functions for our profession. The time has come for our organization to move another step forward. This step will make dentistry easier and better for both patients and dentists. This step involves ADVERTISING. Yes, that boogie man, the mystical pool table demon from the play "The Music Man". Yes, my friends that's how it starts--you start promoting your profession so that John Q Public actually is aware that tooth colored restorations exist, and before you know it the ADA will have a 900 oral sex hotline beamed right into ADA Chicago. You see one thing leads to another. We will loose control and with that will go the integrity of our ivory tower profession. But, Hey! Look around! The ivory tower is laying round us. Chunks have fallen and hit us in the head and landed on our feet. The towers have been attacked by government and insurance. They have succeeded, as all suppressing influences have throughout history , by the public's lack of information. I firmly believe, if the public has the true story, they can make a good decision. As of this writing, the public largely has heard one side of the story and is missing many of the stories.
Well who is to blame. Of course--we are! But let's not be too hard on ourselves. After those ivory blocks hit us in the head a few times we are starting to wake up and realize we need to do more to educate the public. Reality begins to hit home when our patient whose mouth will totally fall apart in a few short years unless they spend $5,000-6,000 for some major work decides to not treat his or her condition. WE, and I emphasize WE, know that with this work and some home care his or her mouth will serve them well for the next 30 years. Instead of investing in some dental care that will benefit them all day every day, they decide their mouth is not that high of a priority. What are their priorities? Why, you know the answer! A new car that costs them 8,000 per year and falls apart in 6 years. A couple of pairs of Nikes a year. Satellite TV at $450 per year. Etc. etc. etc. ad infinitium. All possessions they have been educated (some may say brainwashed) to feel they must have. Their choice for not committing to proper dental care is not based on cost (at least for the typical American) but based on perceived need. These choices are made without proper education about the benefits of proper dental care.
So WAKE UP GOOD OLD BOYS!!! We have to join the 20th or at least the 21st century. In order to compete with these other (so-called) "needs", we must use the educational tools available to us. Let us not continue to tie our gloved fingers together and rely solely on one on one education of our patients. Not only is that method terribly inefficient, but it leaves out, totally, the 50% of the public that doesn't visit the dentist.
How exactly should we educate? Some ideas that I can quickly list: encourage dental manufacturers to develop educational materials for schools, ADA TV advertising, print, Internet, telephone information help-line. We need to use mass media to educate the public about fee for service, treatment options, non treatment results etc. etc.
Wouldn't It Be Better And Easier If..?
- Our patient's mother asked us if Suzy was ready for her fissure sealant.
- John asked if his tooth, that needed a filling, was a good candidate for a tooth colored filling, already knowing that his insurance would not pay for this service.
- Mrs. Jones, coming in for a new lower denture, tells you she would like implants so she can chew better than with her old denture.
- Jim asks you at his recall if you feel that the missing tooth on his lower right would be better replaced by a fixed bridge or an implant.
- Jenny Sue asks you if she should have her teeth cleaned more often, even though her insurance won't pay for more frequent care, because she realizes that she builds up so much tartar on her teeth that every six months just isn't doing the trick.
- Your patients realize that UCR is not found in the Bible.
- Your patients understood that the toothpaste people decided every six months was the proper interval for a cleaning.
- Emma comes into your office very distraught because she is afraid you will have to pull the tooth that broke instead of being able to save the tooth with a root canal and a crown.
- Patients understood it is not the insurance companies' place to determine what treatment is best for any given patient. They are required only to fulfill a contract that specifies certain treatment for certain amounts of payment.
- Our patients knew that the people who work for 60 Minutes never went to dental school! Nor have they probably ever been science majors at college.
- Everyone realized the statement "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you" was meant to be funny!!!
- Mrs. Boondoggle, a 70 year old senior, needs some modest dental work and instead of telling you she doesn't want to spend much, since she may only live 10-15 more years, she tells you she wants her mouth fixed up right so she will be able to enjoy all her meals with family and friends for the next 15-20 years.
- Ron feels that it is reasonable to finance his $8,000 dental treatment over 4 years with his local bank.
I could go on and on. In fact, this is getting so appealing, I may just flip out to fantasy land for awhile. See you all next month.