As dentists we are quite rightly required and expected to give our patients information about all of the various treatment options available to them and to discuss with them the advantages and disadvantages of each one, highlighting not only the benefits but also any likely concerns or risks. This is a crucial role for us and one that requires a great deal of time and no small measure of communication skills. It is a role that we at StoneRock take very seriously and one that we pride our selves on providing a first class service in.
The discussion about treatment options usually works best when it takes the form of a conversation; one where patients feel able to discuss honestly any fears, concerns or objections that they have about any particular procedure. At the heart of these conversations is often one over riding question “Is it safe?” Many patients fear that the procedure or indeed the materials used may harm them more than the condition we are trying to treat. These fears are often of such a level that dental treatment has been avoided to such an extent that the patient is suffering pain, infection, loss of function and loss of self esteem from the state of the mouths. Over coming these fears in a sympathetic, non judgmental manner is of primary importance if these patients are ever going to be able to receive dental treatment. When ever possible, treatment should be provided in such away that it can accommodate the patients wishes without compromising their care. Sometimes this is not possible and the dentist, ultimately, must decide on the ethical suitability of a treatment if it is compromised beyond a reasonable level.
The question “Is it safe?” can usually be addressed in broad terms by looking at evidence from studies that look at large numbers of patients treated in a similar manner over many years. This can give us a rough idea of risk but it can never answer the question “Is it safe for me?” What a some patients want to know is, “what will happen to me in the future if you do this treatment for me?” This question is unanswerable in any meaningful way. We can never truly know what the outcome will be in an individual, only what the probable outcomes may be. This may sound like a woolly answer sometimes but it is the only honest one.
It is impossible to eliminate all risk from our lives. Ever treatment carries some risk of failure and of complications. Any material that has an effect will have a side effect. Every material will contain elements that are not “safe” in one form or another. BUT good dentistry done well can transform lives and can provide predictable, pain free results that work time and time again and that is something that, to my mind, is always worth the risk.