Dentists Too Often Sidestep Advice to Patients

By Carl T. Grove, D.D.S.


                The dental profession is dependent to a great extent upon the large organizations composing the dental trades and supply group; those who provide the dentist with instruments, equipment, and supplies, and those who supply the public with the products necessary for proper mouth care. These great organizations are valuable allies of the dentist and the profession is fortunate in that this group has built its foundations upon professional service and responsibility. Naturally there are exceptions but on the whole the association between dentist and the commercial house has been pleasant and indeed helpful.

Indifference Not Necessary

Dentists very carefully select materials and equipment that they use in their technical practice, but they are not so careful about the products used by their patients. Very few dentists take the attitude that all cements, golds and investments are the same and that they can use anyone of them with equally good results. However, too often they reply to inquiries of their patients concerning a choice of prophylactics, dentifrices, toothbrushes and food fortification products, that they are all alike and all serve the required purpose. “Oh, it doesn’t matter, they are all the same” is a familiar phrase, but it does matter and in making this statement the dentist is not quite fair either to himself or his patients, since he knows there is much greater value in some products than others. Because of this superior knowledge he is not only in a position to advise them but it is his duty to give them the benefit of his better judgment.

There is definite psychology associated with professional advice to patients. People want the best. It is human nature to desire good care and the finest merchandise. People choose their dentist because they have confidence in his superior workmanship and judgment, and they seek his opinion on these matters because they feel that by following his advice they are doing everything possible to preserve mouth health.

The dentist by his professional judgment and experiences can decide what he would like to have his patients use. He should have convictions and he does have, therefore his patients should benefit by them.

By neglecting this phase of practice, the dentist forces the patient to decide his own dental health problems. This involves many evils that are not fully realized by the profession. Not receiving professional advice the patient immediately decides for himself, and often his decisions are formed from high powered lay advertisements.



Patient: Easy Victim

In buying these products the patient very frequently encounters another evil, the evil of substitution. In attempting to purchase a particular product a person is often told by the clerk that there is another product (most likely of unknown origin and questionable quality) that is “better” and “cheaper”, commonly called a “spiff”. Without professional advice the person falls victim to the clever sales talk.

If dentistry is to take the leadership it deserves as a health service it must guide its clientele, it must aid in stamping out the unknown and undesirable products, so often offered as substitutes, that pretend to serve the public. Dentistry must execute its judgment and uphold professional standards.