For many health care problems, dentists can offer multiple treatment options or grades of dental care. These options may vary in complexity, durability, and cost. A good example is that a dental implant, a bridge or a denture can all replace a tooth that has been extracted. Which one is chosen depends a great deal on what you, the patient, wants. Working together, you and your dentist can choose the treatment options that best meet your needs. This relationship is a shared responsibility. Your dentist should explain each treatment option, including its benefits and drawbacks. You should tell your dentist about yourself and your needs, and ask your dentist and office staff as many questions as needed to help you understand your treatment recommendations. For additional information, consult your local or state dental society, your library, or visit the American Dental Association web site, at http://www.ada.org
Here are some considerations that will help you get information you need to be a smart consumer of dental care:
What does this treatment recommendation mean?
If you don't understand any part of what your dentist recommends, don't be afraid to ask for more information.
Are other treatment options available?
How do options differ from cost? Which solutions will last longer? Do all options solve the problem?
Among the dentists recommendations, which treatments are absolutely necessary?
Which are elective? Which are cosmetic?
Which procedures are urgently needed and which ones are less urgent?
Your dentist should be able to prioritize a treatment schedule to help you distinguish problems needing immediate attention from those that are less urgent. Often, treatment can be phased in over time. Be sure to understand the consequences of delaying treatment.
How much will this cost, and how and when are you expected to pay?
Does the dentist participate in your health plan? What method of payment does he or she expect? And when is payment due? Make sure you understand the fees, method and schedule of payment before you agree to any treatment.
Feel free to call around the community to compare such factors as location, office hours, fees, and what arrangements will be made in case of an emergency. If you are comparing fees, ask for estimates on full mouth x-rays and a preventative dental visit that includes an oral exam and a tooth cleaning.
If you have talked with your dentist and are unsure what to do, get a second opinion. To find a dentist for another opinion, call the Rhode Island Dental Association, or ask a relative or friend for referrals. If there is a dental school in the area you may be able to make an appointment at the school.
If you are dissatisfied with your dental care, or otherwise feel your dentist has treated you improperly, contact us. The Rhode Island Dental Association offers peer review services to mediate disputes between patients and member dentists. These services are available free of charge for patients.