With 29 years of practicing dentistry under my belt (and planning another 10 more!), I have seen the world of dentistry change and evolve. Dentistry has developed substantially from the little bald dentist on the corner block, whom you’ve seen since well before you could remember, to a style closer aligned to corporate America. A practice that fuels its decisions and relationships based on its bottom line and profit over the close relationship between doctor and patient.
I am more shocked than ever at how the general public, still see dentistry. The days of a true family dentist are becoming more of a memory because he or she is existing less and less, leaving dentistry for good. We are seeing an increase in young dentists with insurmountable graduate school debt in addition to the debt that comes with the purchase of their first practice. Even seasoned dentists earn their share of speculation, especially when their physical practice is too small to accommodate all of their patient’s needs. Typically, in smaller practices, dentists will save their chair time for insurance companies that reimburse more than others. If you have 2 restorative chairs and you have 3 patients with needs, you save the chair time for the best reimbursing insurance companies and tell the last patient that their teeth “look fine” even if they don’t. Really, they don’t even want you in their practice in the fear that you will take up their valuable chair time.
How can you get around these new issues confronting dentistry? Here are a few suggestions.
- Pick a practice of decent size in terms of chairs, because they can afford for you to sit in them. I’m not suggesting being a part of a “mill”, but if you think about the logistics and the physical properties of a dental facility, this all begins to make more sense.
- Pick a “seasoned” dentist who has no bills or debt to pay off. In a practice like ours, we don’t need for you to be here unless you want to be here and can afford to be here.
- Make sure that your dentist offers you options. Nobody has to have a crown or an implant to survive. Not having a permanent fix may cause you to need more later, but remember, for some, later may be a better option.
- Find a dentist who guarantees their work. Just now we had a patient call from Hawaii who lost a crown done in 2014 and is a good standing cash patient. I don’t think it’s the patient’s fault that the crown came off, and from a dental perspective, even the best of dentists has an occasional crown come off. My point is, it is our responsibility to stand behind our work and our decisions and it’s easy to replace at no additional fee to our patient. Own your issues as well as your successes.
- GET A 2ND OPINION. THIS ONE IS THE MOST OBVIOUS. BE SMART! REMEMBER, THESE DAYS DENTISTS LEAVE DENTAL SCHOOL WITH THE MOST DEBT THAT THEY HAVE EVER HAD. COMBINE THAT WITH PATIENTS HAVING FEWER NEEDS AND YOU CAN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND HOW AND WHY THE “PRACTICE OF DENTISTRY” HAS BEEN CHANGING INTO THE “BUSINESS OF DENTISTRY”, AND WHY AS A PATIENT, YOU NEED TO LEARN HOW TO CHANGE WITH THE TRENDS.
Dr. Ron Sherman