Have you ever had a new patient come in with a broken front tooth that looks something like this?
While we all want to help patients in this situation as quickly as possible, it is important to ask ourselves what caused the broken tooth. In this particular case, the cause of the broken tooth was pretty straight forward – there were clearly functional bite issues causing excessive wear which also led to this fracture.
Tell Your Patient What Caused the Broken Tooth
This brings us to another SUPER important point: once you have determined what caused the broken tooth, share it with your patient so they know what to expect moving forward. Think about it. They have a broken front tooth and want it fixed quickly, but if you just jump right into fixing it and don’t share the fact that they can expect it to break again – possibly very quickly – you will now be known as the dentist who did a “bad job.”
If, on the other hand, you ensure they are educated as to what to expect until their bite is addressed, in their eyes you will then be the guy who “predicted the future.”
So once you are past the point of discovery and education, which can happen very quickly in many cases, what do you do next? While every case is a bit different when it comes to specific details, there a few general tips that apply to just about every case.
First, make sure your patient is “with you”– meaning they “get” the reasons behind what it going on in their mouth and that they know you alone can’t make everything all better. Sure, you can and will help a bunch, but they have to have ownership of their oral health and understand that it is going to take a team, of which they are a part, working together for the best outcome.
Second, in cases such as the one of above, if you and the patient decide to attempt an interim/emergency fix prior to a comprehensive diagnosis of their entire mouth, do as little as possible and make whatever you do as minimally invasive as possible. For example, in this case I did some minor bonding in the area, which by the way had issues fracturing as both the patient and I expected until the bite was corrected. While this was no fun, it was WAY better than if I had done a crown that fractured or kept coming loose.
Third, both you and the patient need to expect the fact you may not be able to meet 100 percent of their goals quickly – it may take considerable time. Had I made this patient’s tooth exactly like she wanted right way, it would have been a VERY short term fix as she would have fractured even faster than the occasional fracture of bonding material she experienced as we worked to correct her bite. Of course, our patients typically want the end result right way, as do I, that is human nature after all. We have to realize, however, that just like almost everything in life, achieving significant changes and goals with our dentistry typically takes significant time and effort.
(Enjoy this article? Check out these other articles by Dr. John Carson.)
John R. Carson, DDS, PC, Spear Visiting Faculty and Contributing Author www.johncarsondds.com