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Second Opinion

Sometimes when treatment is offered, a patient feels there might be a reason to get a second opinion. Contrary to what many patients believe, most dentists welcome the opportunity for a patient to get someone else to have a look and make some suggestions to the patient.

Because many patients believe telling the dentist that a second opinion is wanted will somehow offend the dentist, there is a tendency for patients to seek a second opinion on the sly.

When a patient goes to a dentist for a second opinion, it is nice for the second dentist to have previously received any radiographs, clinical history of the situation, and observations that the original dentist has. Without that information, you might get very different suggestions from the second dentist than you would get if he had the background information which will result in confusion. For example, with periodontal disease (loss of bony attachment holding a tooth in place). In its early or middle stages, it is a condition whose signs and symptoms ebb and flow. As such, there may be quite a bit of bone loss, with no inflammation and the patient is cleaning the area well. In this condition, the periodontal disease will get some discussion going between the dentist and the patient, but likely no referral to a specialist will be suggested. However, the same patient a couple of months later (or earlier) might see a dentist and the same condition is in an active period. In this stage, there is blood in the area with the slightest manipulation of the tissue. This situation easily could prompt the dentist to immediately refer the case to a bone and gum specialist (periodontist) since active bone loss is occurring and he doesn’t know how long it has been this way. He also does not know what previous treatments have been successful or what treatments have not had any effect. This is especially true if the patient does not identify the area as an area of previous interest to other dentists or make sure the records of the previous dentist are available to the second dentist. As well, a patient sometimes will not provide any information regarding any problems he has had after the dentist asks, but instead says something like, “You’re the doctor, you tell me where the problems are”. This is especially true when a patient is seeking a second opinion and trying to keep the second dentist from knowing this is an appointment seeking a second opinion. A comment like this often makes a dentist feel like the patient may not care about his mouth and is completely unaware of anything in it. This kind of perception likely will prompt the dentist to suggest more aggressive treatment of problems because the patient seems to not be on board to notice symptoms.

Most health care professionals operate on the basis that there is a health care team. And who do you think is the most important member of the health care team? It’s you, of course, the patient. You are the one who lives with the condition you are trying to get fixed, and it is wise to recognize your position on your own health care team and try to provide information that might help you get the quickest and least expensive treatment to correct any problems.

Also, regarding a second opinion, it would be nice if you sought the advice from someone who has a broader and/or deeper knowledge on the subject than your regular dentist. If you ask your dentist who he or she would see if he had the same problem in his own mouth, you will get a really good answer to the question of where to go for a second opinion. You are interested in getting the best dental care possible, and your dentist is interested in making sure that happens for you. Getting a second opinion will put your mind at ease and will enhance treatment for you whether you decide to get the work from your dentist or somewhere else. Make sure to tell your dentist if you would like a second opinion. I think you will be pleasantly surprised how that information will be handled by your dentist.

- This article was written by Dr. Mike Christensen and published in the Daily Miner and News, and Enterprise. Local Kenora News Publicatons (1998-2006)

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