Prevention, the Key to Better Dental Service

By Dr. D. D. Rider, Minneapolis, Minnesota

            The general public and many of our so-called patients are continuing to suffer from oral pathological conditions which dentists could prevent. people delay going to a dentist until pain or disease drives them to it. Then the dentist can only attempt to stop pain and repair the damage after it is done, either by himself on in cooperation with the physician.

This condition and practice has made the dental profession as well as the medical, a reparative and curative art, a negative profession instead of a positive one, associated in the minds of the public with fear, pain, expense and too often exploitation as that which has to be tolerated continually and repeatedly, and all this with the universally expected ultimate loss of their natural teeth, regardless. Is it any wonder that people do not enthuse over dentistry?

Dental Health Service Needed

In spite of all the knowledge which the dental profession has in its possession, knowledge relating to dental health in its relation to general health, that knowledge is being used for the most part as a means to induce the elusive public to “have their teeth fixed,” and that as the end in itself, rather than as a means to an end, the proper end being the practice and promotion of an honest, intelligent and cooperative preventive dental health service.

Dentists have debated, a comparatively few have tirelessly studied, and many are quibbling over the cause, possibility and methods of preventing dental decay, periodontal pathological conditions and the damaging consequences arising therefrom.

For over thirty years, dentists have been writing articles on the value of the teeth in their relation to health, back and forth to each other in dental magazines, the reading matter of which never reaches the public whom it concerns.

For over thirty years, dentists have interpolated in their technical papers and spoken of “our l-o-v-e for and responsibility to d-e-a-r humanity.” After reading these articles and hearing these papers, too many dentists continue to attempt to discharge their professional responsibility to humanity by means of mechanical dental restorations, only. That attempted method is just as impossible, in its completeness as it would be for a wax dog with tallow legs to catch an abestos cat going through a fiery furnace. It simply cannot be done that way. The proper practice and promotion of an honest and intelligent cooperative preventive dental health service offers us our best means of so doing.

The time has passed for quibbling. If any dentist believes that decay is not preventable, then let him work on the known basis that proper care of the teeth and mouth will, at least, minimize decay and periodontal disease.

The time has come for dentists to stop throwing officially supplied boomerangs manufactured by a bureaucratic minority who dictate policies. As related to dentifrices and mouth washes, a dentist sacrifices his professional prestige and his own economic benefit when he answers a patient, “None of ‘em are any good,” or, “Oh, they are all alike.” If a patient is interested in prevention, do not kill that hope, but rather, seize upon that favorable situation as a means for your professional and economic advancement.

Every dentist should decide upon and recommend some creditable prophylactic agents, if for no other reason, then to impress the patient with the possibility that he was given the matter consideration.

The time has come for individual dentists to make a practical application of the knowledge possessed, knowledge relating to prevention.

The time is fast coming when dentists will be challenged for not promoting and practicing prevention to the extent of their ability.

Increased Practice From Preventive Education

Incidentally, it might be interesting to know that prevention, properly promoted and practiced, will increase a dentist’s income.

Of course, we know what dentists really want. They want an unlimited number of patients who need big “jobs” done, all of whom will unhesitatingly subscribe thereto, and who are capable and willing to pay whatever fee a dentist may ask, without question. As long as the vest majority of dentists will never realize the fulfillment of that Utopian dream, let us not go on from day to day hoping for the impossible, but rather let us consider that value of prevention as a key to better and more profitable dental service.

Fully cognizant of the superior professional and humanitarian value of prevention to the general public, the economic value to dentists is herein emphasized simply because, if we are going to expect dentists to promote and practice prevention, we will have to show them how prevention will give them greater remuneration for rendering a better dental service. We have failed, professionally, to educate the public and dentists in the value of practicing prevention: let us try it from an economic standpoint. Past policies and performances definitely indicate that this is necessary. And why not? Good dentists are entitled to a living, plus. They are entitled to practical, constructive and active economic cooperation if we are to establish a more general professional and economic balance.

The proper practice of prevention furnishes valuable potentialities to all capable dentists, both those whose productive hours are not fully occupied in profitable endeavor, and those whose hours are so occupied but who desire increased income without the uneconomic effort of raising their fees to a prohibitive amount. The increased income which is associated with a practice which is on a preventive basis is in direct proportion to the honesty, intelligence and enthusiasm with which a “preventive dental health service” is presented and practiced.

If presented properly, prevention will cause potential patients to subscribe to their maximum dental needs and put price secondary to service.

What Does Prevention Do?

Prevention makes actual patients loyal.

Prevention makes loyal patients enthusiastic boosters.

Prevention raises dentistry from mere mechanics to a real professional service.

Prevention increases our prestige.

Prevention stimulates us in the pursuit of our affairs.

Prevention gives us something to talk about, without talking shop, which can be used acceptably and efficiently in getting more practice.

Prevention gives our patients something to say about us that they cannot say about a dentist not practicing it.

Prevention should give us the personal satisfaction of rendering the best possible service to our patients and humanity.

A street car card reads, “The value of advertising is cumulative. Continuous contact with one’s market plus constant repetition of one’s message makes advertising pay.” Substitute the word education for the word advertising, and the word patients for the word market, and see what reaction you get.

That revamped quotation expresses just exactly what the vast majority of dentists do not have or do, but, should have and do.


Keep Patients Informed

A reasonably continuous contact with one’s patients should be maintained. However, unless a dentist uses some phase of prevention, he is limited to a negligible amount of acceptable and efficient subject material. There is no such thing in dentistry as special sales or, “Just to keep our tailors busy, we are, etc.” Personally, I have sent out letters which have caused an immediate influx of “new business to a satisfactory amount, but, it is the continuous contact that is of importance, and, the message must be correct and ethical.

The constant repetition of some acceptable phase of prevention makes education pay, providing, a dentist coordinates his presentation and practice. Space does not permit illustration and inclusion of letter forms and literature developed and used for this purpose. However, by supplying your actual patients with acceptable and interesting conversational copy concerning some phase of prevention, prospective patients will come to your office with less of that characteristic negative complex, a good percentage of whom are ready to become your potential patients. It is then up to you to make actual patients out of potential.

Prevention can be used, without apology and the usual suspicion of “looking for business,” in getting entree to appear before groups.

Prevention can be used acceptably and efficiently in social contacts, if properly presented. To the commonly asked questions, “Are you a doctor or a dentists?” and, “Well, Doc., how’s business?” proper answers leading to a conversation dealing with prevention can be made, which will interest a prospective patient who is thereby more likely to become your potential and actual patient, and thus increase and stabilize your practice. Space does not permit enumerating the many detailed ways in which prevention can be ethically and efficiently used for the mutual benefit of all concerned.

No superior type of service, no better or greater opportunity for efficient mutually beneficial promotion is available than that which is possible in the proper practice and promotion of prevention.

Prevention is the key to better and more profitable dental service for the vast majority of dentists. However, it is like any other key –it is useless unless used.

Note: Your comment will be appreciated, and will largely determine whether more articles, dealing with professional and economic balance or further detailed information, are generally desired.

516 La Salle Bldg.

Minneapolis, Minn.