THE RIGHT DENTAL TREATMENT
IS THE RECOMMENDED DENTAL TREATMENT THE RIGHT THING TO DO?
This is probably the most important question one should consider before beginning dental treatment! Before this question can be answered however, a complete evaluation of the mouth that includes both the teeth and gums, must be considered. It may not make sense to spend thousands of dollars to fix a single tooth or area needing treatment if there are other serious or underlying dental problems present that the patient may not be aware of, and/or may not be prepared financially to have done fairly soon. Not addressing total oral health in a timely manner or not having a plan to treat existing dental problems in an appropriate and logical sequence will likely lead to failure of any dental work that has already been done. This pattern of care ultimately leads to frustration on the part of the patient who is likely to “give up” and quit seeking dental care altogether unless there’s a dental emergency. Finally, will the patient be able to maintain their teeth and overall oral health once treatment is completed?
Unfortunately, I have seen many patients opt for limited and expensive dental treatment in an emergency when having pain, only to find out later that they will require thousands of dollars of additional treatment that may not be covered by insurance, or that the patient is not financially prepared for. In frustration, I often hear patients say things like “Doc, I just want them all pulled”, or “I’ve already spent thousands of dollars on my teeth”, after they found out later that even more dental work is needed. Many patients will even say things like “I’ll just get implants” without realizing the cost or maintenance that will be required.
Consider the following:
- Ask the dentist for a complete evaluation of the entire mouth, that includes ALL of the teeth and gums.
- No one can predict the future, however carefully looking at both the patient’s current dental and medical health and history will help in predicting and preventing future dental problems.
- What is the likelihood that other teeth will need major repairs such as root canals or crowns now or in the future? This is important because each additional tooth requiring both a root canal and crown can cost up to $2000.00 or more per tooth!
- Are the teeth, gums, and patient’s current medical condition stable enough to allow for maintaining good oral and dental health; preferably for a lifetime? Even implants require healthy gums and jaw bone and an overall healthy patient.
- Are any medications or prescriptions being taken, or existing medical conditions that are likely to affect the ability to perform successful dental treatment and follow-up maintenance?
- Will the patient be able to finish all recommended dental treatment in a reasonable amount of time that includes both treatment and maintenance? Just like the reason one shouldn’t go grocery shopping when hungry, one shouldn’t let pain in a dental emergency be the only factor in making a treatment decision.
- Consider a second or even third opinion. There are usually alternate treatment choices available.
In summary, with proper care and maintenance it should be possible to keep all teeth a lifetime. There is no substitute for one’s natural teeth, however to make this happen, the complete or “big picture” of total oral and dental health must be considered. Expensive stop-gap, or short-sighted treatments may not make sense or be affordable in the long run if attaining optimum care is not immediately or soon within reach. I would always recommend making it a priority to keep the natural teeth at any cost that is comfortable for the patient. If unable to achieve total and complete oral and dental health within a short or reasonable amount of time, then it might may more sense to consider less extensive and more affordable dental treatments, that if nothing else might “buy more time” until getting the desired treatment becomes possible.