It’s a Choice – Part 1

Wednesday May 25, 2022

People often ask me how I have time to write columns, and how I’ve come up with topics for as long as The Town Common has been around. If you have read my columns over the years, you’ll remember I have discussed that time was one of the barriers keeping people from getting the dental care they need. Time is an excuse and I use it as an excuse all the time. However, we always make time for things that are important to us. 

The topics I come up with have been an evolution. I try to keep it interesting. Of course, many of the things that I find interesting in dentistry would bore others. While some of my columns may bore you to tears, hopefully there are others that you can relate to, or stimulate thoughts or questions. 

Let’s talk today about a common scenario seen in all dental offices. New patients, husband and wife in their 60’s, are “forced” to make a dental provider change. I say “forced” because regardless of our situation, we always have a choice in our providers. 

This couple had been seeing the same dentist for 30 years. Despite the fact that they moved 20 miles from the dentist 10 years ago, they continued to make the drive to the office. They were dedicated and they loved their dentist. Then one day the dentist retired and they decided it was time to choose someone closer to where they lived. 

Both went to their new office for hygiene appointments and then discussed their experience. They both felt the office staff was less friendly than their previous office. Of course, they knew that “old” office and loved everyone there. They were still willing to give it a chance, until they met the dentist. The dentist seemed like a nice person but took a quick look and said the same thing to both husband and wife – You NEED 8 crowns.

How could this be, they thought? They had been going to the same office for 30 years, neither ever had a crown, and when something broke, their favorite dentist would “patch” them up. They were completely turned off. They were “forced” again to make a change. 

This time they wanted to meet the dentist first and see what the dentist had to say before they committed. They set up a 30-minute appointment. At that appointment, the “new” dentist examined their x-rays and took photographs of their teeth. They had an in-depth conversation about the condition of their dental health. They were asked what their short-term and long-term objectives were. The word “crown” was never mentioned…..until one of them asked the dentist. 

The dentist discussed advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of treatment. Since the patient’s long-term objective was to have teeth forever, they discussed options for treatment, prioritization and sequencing, as well as financial options. Although they were not ready to dive into treatment, they left the office with a much better understanding of where they stood and appreciated the time that was taken to explain their specific situations.

Every person, every patient, every dentist, is different. This couple experienced three different practice styles. They could relate to Dentist #1 – their “old” dentist. Dentist #2 lacked communication skills, therefore the relationship failed. Dentist #3 took the time to learn about their specific needs and goals. They didn’t feel sales pressure but are still overwhelmed by their apparent “needs.” 

To be continued……

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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