I have heard the expression many times before ... " you have 2 ears and 1 mouth" ... Listen before you speak and more than you speak.
How does this relate to dentistry?
I believe that a good dentist is one who has much more than just the technical skills required to perform a dental procedure. As dentists we must first seek to understand our patients. Each person comes to the office with his or her unique story, past dental experiences, phobias, preconceptions, and misconceptions. Some people want beautiful white straight healthy teeth; others want a healthy mouth but are not concerned about the appearance of their teeth; still others want only emergency care. Most people have some degree of anxiety about being in a dental chair.
The mouth is a very personal area. We all have a natural "comfort zone" of at least 18 inches. If someone invades that space it makes us uncomfortable. Dentists invade their patients' comfort zones all the time. Add to that a person's fear of the unknown and possible pain associated with the dental procedure, and you have a situation that is full of potential discomfort for the dental patient.
Over the years I have heard stories from my patients about situations with their previous dentists that were less than positive. Often these occur when the person is a child and the trauma of the experience stays with them for the rest of their life. These negative events are often the result of the dentist's lack of sensitivity, lack of compassion, and often, a lack of patience. A number of years ago I surveyed a small group of my patients in an effort to discover what was most important to them when visiting the dentist. There were many different answers, but the one thing that all the patients had in common was a desire to have a relationship with their dentist, ... they wanted to be valued as a person, not to feel like a number. They wanted to feel that their dentist cared about them and was interested in their well-being.
This takes me back to my opening statement. It is of the utmost importance for dentists to learn to listen, to find out what is most important to their patients. What do they desire? What are their goals for their mouth? Most people have not given this concept much thought.
Most of us take our teeth for granted. We think of them as inanimate objects that have little to do with our overall health. On the contrary, teeth are complex biologic structures. They are attached to living bone, with a blood supply and connected to our nervous systems. The bones are moved by muscles, and the alignment of the bones affects and is affected by the alignment of the rest of the body. Inflammation in the mouth, in the form of gum disease in particular, can affect our overall health in many ways, contributing to heart disease, respiratory distress, cancer, diabetes, stroke, low birth-weight babies. Development of our face and mouth is affected by and can have a dramatic effect on our upper airway. This can predispose us to develop sleep apnea, airway resistance, and other medical conditions.
The oral cavity (the mouth) is the gateway to our health. The health of the mouth has a tremendous impact on the health or the lack of health of the whole person. This means that to have a trusting, open, respectful, compassionate caring relationship with your dentist is of the utmost importance to help you grow and heal and achieve the highest levels of health and wellness. Our patients have a right to understand the conditions in their mouths, to be educated about various options for treatment that exist, and to be given the ability and freedom to make informed choices for their care.
If you have any thoughts or questions about what has sometimes been called the "relationship-based, health centred practice" please contact us to learn more and share.
Yours for better health,
Dr. Marty Frankel
Smiles by Design
3030 - 3080 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario M4N 3N1