Tuesday June 25, 2024

By J. Peter St. Clair, DMD


The word is out – taking care of your oral health is better for your whole body, including your mind. However, statistics still indicate only about half of the population goes on a regular basis. For those that do go, most patients usually stay with a dentist unless there is some kind of personality conflict or philosophical discrepancy in the perceived need for treatment. How do you know if another opinion is right for you?

When it comes to larger purchases, such as a car, a house or even home improvements, it’s not uncommon to get a second or third opinion/quote. We use the information we gather to make a more informed decision about where and what we are going to spend our money on.

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.

Routine dental care is generally not that complicated. However, 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. Often times, 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 with the relationship to make the decision without the need for another opinion. It is when there is a lack of trust, a personality conflict, or the inability of the dentist to properly communicate with the patient effectively, that often stimulates the desire for another opinion.

Another important factor, which falls in the communication area, 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 effectively communicated to the patient, they have a better ability to decide on the direction to proceed that is right for them. If a dentist presents treatment options and the patient decides to do nothing, that is the patient’s choice. It is when treatment presented 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 between dental offices. 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. As a consumer, you have very little control in your ability to evaluate this.

You do have the ability to know whether you feel comfortable to make an informed decision. Regardless of the situation, if you need more information to make the best decision for yourself, get more information. If you feel pressured to make a decision, don’t make it until you feel comfortable.

The doctor-patient relationship should be an open two-way conversation. Find your dental home … and stay there.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley 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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