I recently met a new patient, a remarkable and engaging young woman with complex medical issues. She falls under the rubric 'disabled' from a physical definition standpoint, but there's absolutely nothing disabled about her splendid expression of the human spirit. In my brief experience of her so far, I've noted that she accomplishes and creates more in a day, in the face of endless challenges large and small, than many of us accomplish in weeks.
One striking thing that comes out in our conversations is how many of her young friends haven't been to the dentist in awhile, and how often this reluctance is because of concerns about cost. Hearing this always sends a sort of shock through my finely attuned dentist's body. Because, you see, most dental problems don't ever get better on their own.
In point of fact, they always get worse.
By 'most' I include cavities and all the complications that go with them, like root canal treatments and even extractions, should the decay get deep enough. I include gum disease, certainly. Even crowded and misaligned teeth--they get more jumbled up over the years. The most severe concern of all is of course the specter of oral cancer. It's one of those cancers where you actually have a pretty good chance of a cure--IF it's caught early.
Many oral diseases are actually silent for long periods. Early cavities, much of gum disease, oral cancer--all painless and sneaky for quite some time. The opposite problem of course is pain. Patients can face physical pain and they also can face esthetic pain; the pain or social embarrassment that results when front teeth go bad.
Mulling on all those concerns, I really want to meet the folks, especially the young folks, who are fearful of cost. Because whatever the cost of dental treatment might be just now, it's going to cost more the more time goes by. On account of the worsening ...
Why am I so keen to meet them?
One of our greatest dental educators, Dr. Morton Amsterdam, famously asserted, "There may be many ways to treat a case, but there is only one correct diagnosis."
I live by that.
Only once we have a diagnosis can we start to talk treatment. Yes, what it takes to treat oral health problems may be expensive at times. Once we have our diagnosis, though, we can suggest options. Once a patient understands and wants a certain kind of dentistry, the question that remains is simply, "Is this the kind of dentistry you would like to have done, if you could fit it into your budget?" And then it's purely a matter of fitting it into one's budget.
Everyone has a budget, even those who don't budget (verb).
At that point, having our diagnosis, we'll talk, we'll strategize, we'll solve problems with you and most of all, we'll listen. But first, you have to come in. First, we both have to obtain a diagnosis.
Cost? Fear? Fear of cost? Meh. The vital thing to consider is this:
There's nothing to fear about making a dental appointment so long as you know you're going to be listened to.