He was an older man of obviously meager means. He drove an old car, and he showed up for his maintenance appointments – always on time – in well-worn clothes. On his feet were scuffed shoes; in his mouth was a history of amalgams and heroic “let's do what we can to preserve this with minimal intervention” dentistry.

The entire team loved him and wanted to do what they could to make it easy for him to keep coming. The dentist never explained to him the true nature of his oral health condition or discussed the full range of treatment possibilities. What would be the point?

I've been assured this is a true story, and that what follows next actually happened. How it's discovered one day that the old man has won a lottery grand prize. How the next time his name appears in the appointment schedule, the dentist strategizes with his team to determine the man's ideal possibilities and put together a treatment plan worthy of a patient with unlimited resources.

Then came the presentation, after which the dentist sat back with satisfaction and waited for this newly-rich patient to express his excitement for what he could do now. Instead, the old man smiled and without a word he got up and left.

A day later, totally perplexed, the dentist called the patient and asked what had happened. The old man said, “When you thought I had no money you didn't tell me the truth. Now that I have money you want me to trust you. I don't.”

The lesson, I think, is obvious: Never assume, never hold back, never compromise on a diagnosis. The only way to really be true to your patients and earn their trust is to be true to yourself and your professional integrity. It is what it is. Tell them.


Commenter's Profile Image Muna Strasser
April 7th, 2012
That is a great story. I did my first implant case in my residency on a hospital emergency patient that my colleagues were encouraging me just to treatment plan a flipper for his broken front teeth. Ignoring their jeers, I presented options and he went for the implants, paid in advance even. Never underestimate what someone values. This is a fantastic reminder. Thanks!
Commenter's Profile Image Barbara Preussner DMD
April 11th, 2012
I think this is a great story, one we can all learn from. Our staff should read this as well.
Commenter's Profile Image Anu Wadivkar
April 17th, 2012
Another story to match.I worked as an associate ( right out of dental school) at a private practice and one of the other associate's had placed a temporary 3 unit bridge for a patient,a salaried man but of meagre means. He "disappeared" after the final impression procedure had been performed . He showed up 4-5 months later and asked for the work to be completed.In the interim he had also lost the temporary bridge and the final bridge did not fit. So the associate informed him that she would have to repeat the procedure and he would be charged for it and then asked why he had disappeared . He told her that he lacked the funds to pay the balance.When she asked him if he would be able to pay this time around he smiled and said yes because he had won a hundred thousand dollars in a lottery...... never judge, never compromise,never underestimate,never compromise your professional integrity!