Thursday, May 20, 2010

What's the Story on Consultations and Second Opinions?

10 different dentists, 10 different approaches

     Whether you’ve been away from the dentist for a while and have several issues or a new problem has sprung up with one or two teeth, often the best place to start is with a consultation to get a grip on what is going on and what can be done to address it. This is one place that patients can get frustrated because they might find that their new dentist does things completely different from their old one, or that their visit sounds completely different from the experience that their neighbor described going through when he or she (fill in the blank--broke a tooth, needed a root canal, etc) last year. One dentist may have given a short, free consultation, while another may have charged hundreds of dollars for a longer visit that included several x-rays, pictures, and impressions.

     The truth is that like in medicine the vast majority of dentists out there genuinely care about your best interests and use them to guide their decisions. Dentists love helping people to improve their health, comfort, and confidence. But dentistry is much different than medicine in that it is not controlled nearly as much by insurance companies so individual offices are freer to practice as they wish. As a result we all tend to do things a little differently from each other, more so than family physicians that may be required by your insurance to run certain tests based on your symptoms.

      When going to a new dentist communication is key so that you aren’t left feeling like you were forced into something you didn’t sign up for. Often patients can feel confused after leaving an appointment. Even though they’d like to get a second opinion they may have already invested time and money getting the first one and they fear that a second might take even more time and money so they’re not sure what to do! There are a couple schools of thought on how dentists approach new patient visits, and as a patient it can be good to know what you might encounter when you walk into a new office for the first time so you can select dental care that meets your expectations.

Consultation or Comprehensive Exam?

     Most approaches boil down to either a short consultation or a longer, more thorough comprehensive exam. Some offices offer both while others require you to do one or the other. In our office for example we always offer free consultations. At a visit like this you can expect about 30 minutes of a doctor’s time to discuss what is going on and some possible options to address it. Occasionally a single x-ray may be needed to make sure certain options are possible. It’s no secret that the question on everyone’s mind is “how much is this all going to cost?” That’s a very fair question because in dentistry there are usually several ways to create a beautiful smile. As the comfort, chewing ability and natural looking quality of the options goes up so does the price and often your budget is going to determine what option you choose. At this visit you can expect to talk about some very ballpark figures that can help you focus on one or two options. You’ll also want to discuss how long you can expect to be in treatment and whether or not any specialist visits would be involved. At this point you can go home, think things over, and decide if you would like to get more opinions or start with treatment. The next step would then be a fee-based comprehensive exam. The fee covers all the detailed record gathering, x-rays, photos, and impressions that are needed to plan out the specifics of your treatment. It’s only after a doctor has had a chance to plan your exact treatment that an exact estimate can be given but you can expect it to be close to the ballpark figure you’ve already discussed. Some offices choose to start with the comprehensive exam. It’s a matter of choice, but if you feel this is what is going on you’ll want to make sure the fees for this have been discussed with you prior to going through with it. On a positive note, if you came into an office looking for an opinion but left with a full exam, you should have most of the records that any dentist would need to give you a second opinion. There may be a fee to have them copied and transferred to another office but any dentist will make them available to you.

Where Do I Start?

     Knowing you need to see a dentist to address several problems or just one can cause a lot of anxiety about what’s going to be recommended, how long it will take and how much it will cost, just to name a few common concerns. In general with dentistry if you’re having a problem or have just been away for a while the sooner we can see you the more options you’ll have.  A short, relaxed consultation with a dentist can be a great first step towards developing a relationship with a dentist that will result in giving you back a healthy, comfortable, beautiful smile. If you need to see a dentist, set up a consultation with an office today!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

2010 ODA Humanitarian Award Winner: Dr. James E. Nicholls!

It's Official!

    Northstone Dental Group is celebrating the recent news that co-owner and founder Dr. James Nicholls has been announced as the 2010 recipient of the Ohio Dental Association's Marvin Fisk Humanitarian Award. This award is given to dentists who have provided oral health care to those in need by donating their time, skill and personal resources. The Columbus Dental Society nominated "Dr. Jim" for his accomplishments over his thirty years in practice, particularly for his participation in Doctors With A Heart Day at his office starting in the late 1980s. 

A Career of Caring
     Dr. Nicholls graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in pharmacy, then worked as a pharmacist in the Northland community while attending dental school at OSU. He began his practice on Schrock Rd in 1979 and a few short years later moved across the street to the larger building where the practice(now Northstone Dental Group) is located today. He first participated in Doctors With a Heart Day, a day of donating free  health care to the community, in 1988. The concept, started by Iowa dentist Duane Schmidt, is simple: any health professional can pick one day a year to open up the office doors and donate free care to those in his or her community that can't afford basic services. The idea is that anyone can do this at their own office. If every health care provider would pick a day to give back then access to care for at-risk individuals in a community could be improved and the burden on the usual safety net clinics might be reduced. The offering has grown over the years to include several other area general dentists and specialists volunteering with Dr. Nicholls and Dr. Halderman. Recently other dentists in Central Ohio have even formed similar events at their own offices.

    "It's great to be picked for this award," says Dr. Jim, "back when I started this I never imagined I'd be recognized for it some day". He will be presented with the award at the 144th Ohio Dental Association Annual Session in September in Columbus.