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!

1 comment:

  1. It's reassuring to choose a dentist that has been referred to you by a friend. Oftentimes, it's wise to accompany a friend or family member in the dentist's office so that you'll be acquainted with the facilities and the dentists as well. I've done this so many times. Last week, I accompanied my niece to a dentist Greer, South Carolina office for dental treatment because my sister is very busy. My knowledge about dentistry Greenville, South Carolina practice has increased because of what I've experienced there.

    Thanks for the incredible post!