Less than perfection in dentistry

Perfection in Dentistry is an Elusive Goal – And That’s OK

Perfection in Dentistry

Achieving perfection in dentistry is not always possible – and believe it or not that can be a good thing.

Let me explain.

When I was trained, we were taught perfection in everything we did. Approaches like that are part and parcel of what makes a dentist who he is.

We are held to a higher level of expectation and performance. We make crowns and fillings with anticipation of what will happen down the road to the patient. We expect the patient not to eat the right foods and not take care of their teeth perfectly.

This type of education spilled over to how we treated people and patients. If we could not get complete patient cooperation, we would refuse to treat the patient. Attitudes and methodology that only expect perfection is the reason that dentists used to lead the world in suicide rates.

With current data, my profession has slipped to the number two ranking.

I believe that we are frustrated for a large part of our careers. We strive for perfection in our work, but perfection is an elusive goal.

It is one thing to create a perfect filling on a model but quite another to do a procedure on a living person with fears, emotions, and constant movement. When we do our best and create great results, we are never satisfied because perfection gets into our heads and makes us feel inadequate.

We Cannot Solve Every Problem & Fix Every Situation

As time passed, I learned this concept slowly, but I learned it nonetheless. I learned this lesson even more when faced with incurable or devasting diseases or health problems. I learned that I could not solve every problem or fix every situation. I was a dentist and a male, so I had two strikes against me in this regard. 

Not Everything Has to be Perfect

What prompted me to write this column was a patient I saw last week who came to me in frustration.

She did not like her smile due to her crooked teeth.

When we discuss tooth alignment, there are two distinct views.
The first concern is how the teeth look next to each other and their relation to the teeth in the other jaw. The second concern is how the teeth function and interact in a chewing motion. Teeth are how we survive and obtain proper nutrition. An efficient and pain-free function is crucial for our health, but cosmetics rank high in our evaluation and assessment.

Less Than Perfection is a Step in The Right Direction

My patient could chew pain-free, but her jaw alignment prevented dentistry from creating a perfect bite.

There’s that “perfect” word again.

She needed jaw surgery to create perfection and was not interested in undergoing that scope of treatment for various reasons. Currently, she did not like her crooked teeth and wanted straight teeth. The straight teeth would not interfere with future jaw surgery if she went in that direction. In the meantime, she could feel good about herself with a prettier smile.

We discussed that no harm would occur if we did not treat her surgically. It was no longer my way or the highway. Options and achieving less than perfection in dentistry is a movement in a positive direction.

Positive movement is a good thing. If you think your options are limited, please call Nikki at 440.951.7856 to discuss what may be right for you. As always, I look forward to meeting you. 

Jeffrey Gross, DDS, FAGD is an Ohio licensed general dentist and is on the staff of Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine.

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