Just this week, I had a patient asking us to do “just a cleaning” (a preventive service) when he/she clearly needed treatment for his/her gums. We can’t prevent something that’s already present, in this case periodontal disease (gum disease). Asking us, or any dentist, to not treat it is asking us to be negligent in the care we provide to you. We are in the business of giving you back health and function, not negligence.
In the case above, there is a clear cut standard of care. Not sticking to that standard of care means we’d be negligent. Are there situations where there may be more than one treatment that meets the standard of care? Yes—and if that is the case for you, we will provide you with the options you have as well as information about each one.
For your best health and function, your teeth, your gums, your bone, and titanium (usually in the form dental implants) must live in harmony. If we identify a disease process, we must tell you about it and explain what you need to do to fix it as well as what the consequences of not doing anything are.
If you do need to postpone treatment for a short time for whatever reason, it is best to let us know that and the reason behind it. But remember that it’s not ever going to get less expensive to fix a dental problem and any discomfort you have is not going to get more comfortable with time. However, if we know that you do want to do the treatment just can’t at this moment, we will try to wait with you until such time as you can do the needed treatment.
However if your answer is “no, I’m never going to do that” you need to realize that the days of watching dental disease progress is no longer the standard of care. We know that the problem is not going to get better on its own. Every decision you make about your oral health has consequences. Expect to hear what those consequences are if you refuse recommended treatment. We may wait with you (for a time at least), but we are not going to watch it for you indefinitely. That’s not doing either of us any favors.
**Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgment of your healthcare providers.
Jennifer G. Robb, DMD is a general dentist who sees both adults and children. She is dedicated to giving you back your best dental health and function.