Communication is Key

Wednesday May 11, 2022

It is not uncommon to get a second opinion, or a second or third quote for things like car repairs and home improvements. When it comes to our health, it usually depends on the nature of the issue. More complex issues in medicine, such as a diagnosis of cancer, an unknown diagnosis, or other major medical issues in which we have to make decisions about significant treatment, tend to stimulate people to get more than one opinion. In dentistry, it seems that the incidence of second opinions is not as great. 

Routine dental care is generally not that complicated. There are many different ways to do the simplest things in dentistry. The method is a function of the dentist’s beliefs and training. It is relatively uncommon for a patient to get a second opinion for this type of maintenance dental care. Although there is some subjectivity as to what different dentists might deem as “needing” to be done, patients usually base their decision on their perceived need. This perception of need comes from the dentist’s ability to communicate the reasons for treatment. 

The patient’s trust in their provider is a big factor. If a patient trusts and genuinely likes their dentist, they may not necessarily do or want to do what the dentist wants them to, but they are comfortable enough to make the decision on treatment. It is when there is a lack of trust, for one reason or another, that patients tend to venture out for another opinion. This lack of trust usually stems from a personality conflict or the inability of the dentist to properly communicate with the patient effectively.

Even when there are more complex dental issues, it is my feeling that patients base the need for another opinion on lack of trust. Another important factor is that the patient is given choices. Patients always have the right to choose what treatment they feel is right for themselves. If choices are given and the treatment is properly communicated to the patient, they have the ability to decide in what direction to proceed.

If a dentist properly communicates the need for treatment and the patient decides to do nothing, it is the patient’s choice. It is when treatment is properly presented and it aligns with the patient’s perception of need or desire, that the patient moves forward with treatment.

Fees tend to be a less common reason for patients to seek another opinion. Fees for treatment can definitely vary. The problem with seeking treatment based on fees is that the same treatment in two different offices with different fees can also vary in the level of expertise and precision in which it is done. There are many factors. 

A higher fee does not always mean a higher quality product. Fees are generally based on the time involved, the materials used, and the perceived expertise of the provider. Be cautious when seeking treatment based on fees. The fee for treatment should definitely be considered, but the entire treatment presentation and the way in which it is communicated should be used to determine your decision. 

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. He has a special interest in treating snoring, sleep apnea and TMJ problems. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have, please email them to him at

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