As a dentist, one of the most important decisions when treating a patient is what order to do dental treatment in. Not only do I need to consider how different dental diseases are affecting the mouth like cavities eating the enamel, gum disease hurting the bone, or clenching and grinding breaking the teeth, but also what are the esthetics of the smile and what is the most important to the patient. Phasing dental treatment is important especially when significant issues exist because often budgets and time are limited, and I want to make sure that my patients get the best long term results. When deciding how to phase treatment, I think it is important to discuss the initial exam and findings, the patient's desires, and the final desired result.
Finding the Problems
When I meet a new patient, I like to sit down and chat with them for a few minutes before starting any exam. Every individual comes to me from a different place with different needs and different desires for their mouth. After this, I’ll review the x-rays and then do an exam to determine what issues that I see and take photos as needed. From here, I’ll discuss with my patient what I notice, what concerns me, and what I think we should do. This appointment takes around fifteen to twenty-five minutes. The goal of the appointment is for me to understand what the patient wants for their mouth, and for the patient to understand what I see in the patient’s mouth so that we are both on the same page. It is important for us both to agree on the issues so that we can develop the right plan to get the mouth into great shape and maintain it.
Fixing the Dental Issues
As soon as we agree on the problems, I think it is important to start with whatever issue bothers my patient the most that day. This might mean that we are just doing a routine cleaning, removing a painful back molar, or fixing a front tooth because it is badly chipped. I start here because the majority of patients come in with one problem that they need to be fixed and I want to address those issues first. I have repaired small fillings first and not immediately removed bad broken down teeth simply because those fillings were in the front and were stained and the infected teeth in the back were not hurting. While I encourage the patient to return so that we can treat the infection, I do believe that the patient has the autonomy to make their decisions for what is most important in their body.
Finally, when determining treatment order, I like to begin with the end in mind. I like to develop a plan where the patient will have a great smile that chews well and is easy to maintain. I put the smile first because a smile is often the hardest thing to get right from the get-go. Most patients are ok with not being able to chew well for a time, but they have a much harder time not being able to have a presentable smile. After the smile is corrected, I next focus on function and chewing. This means that the patient must have sufficient back teeth placed in the proper position so that good nutrition can be maintained. Often, when the smile looks correct, getting to a good bite, is not too difficult. Finally, I want to make sure that things are maintainable. This means that the teeth, gums, and prosthetics are easy to clean. Also, it means that when things need to be repaired or replaced, it is routine and does not necessarily require everything to be redone.
Dental Treatment in New Orleans
I hope that this blog helps give you a better understanding of the way I approach treatment plan decisions for my patients. My goal is that everyone gets the smile they want and a healthy mouth so that they can feel confident and live their lives to the fullest. I think that deciding on the proper order can help make sure that whether a plan is completed in 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years that we will get to the best place possible. If you need help determining the right order for treatment in your mouth, please call us at 504-392-5104 and we will help you out.