Sheri's Solutions: The second opinion

2015 03 31 16 23 41 686 Doniger Sheri 2015 200

"Are all my teeth going to fall out if I don't get this treatment?"

New patients, especially those who are coming for a second opinion, are interesting. For the most part, every dental patient we see in our offices has been somewhere else for dental treatment at some point in their lives. It may have been six days or six months ago, or possibly a year or 12, but most patients have a dental history. As we have seen, some of those dental encounters are good and some are, well, shall I say interesting at best. This is a case of an interesting dental encounter.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.

A woman, who I have been acquainted with for more than 12 years, visited my office for a second opinion. She had no radiographs but just wanted us to see if she was at risk of losing her teeth. She had gone to a dentist who, after taking a full series of radiographs, informed her that she had major problems: decay forming under her posterior restorations and the need for restorations "yesterday."

This dentist was willing to "change his vacation" to fit her into the schedule. He immediately took study models on her and sent her to the front desk to schedule her dental procedures. This woman took a pause and said, "Is it all really necessary?"

He said, "Yes, your teeth will disintegrate if you do not get this work done." Did I mention the patient had dental benefits? Not the best, but a $1,500 yearly maximum that she would have gone through in a matter of two visits.

Did he really say "disintegrate"? I do not believe so, but that is what the patient heard.

Therefore, I looked and we talked. I explained that, without radiographs, I was unable to make any specific recommendations without viewing the complete picture. Nothing looked so fractured that it was going to fail within the week. I recommended we request the radiographs and reconvene the next week. She agreed.

I called the other dentist, who had three offices and was never in the one we called at the time we tried. I did receive one of his assistants, who answered the phone driving between offices. She would call the office to send the radiographs on arrival at her office. We never heard from her or the office. After a week, we tried calling again, only to experience the same frustration. The patient tried as well. She did not want a new set of radiographs taken, since she had the most recent set a few months ago.

“Professional courtesy dictates records requests be sent on a timely basis.”

Now, this patient has to be on hold. Since we were just consulting, she felt confident that her teeth would not self-destruct in the next month. We did not hear from her again until she had a minor dental emergency and gave the office a call. We were looking for her radiographs in our system and found nothing.

Six months later, the dentist had never sent the radiographs. We called, again, with the same result. The patient volunteered to try again the next day, and she did receive an email address contact for the office. She requested the radiographs sent to both our office and her home, as she had to go to an endodontist for a consultation at a specific time the following day.

She never received those radiographs. Finally, I sent an email and did receive an email with the radiographs two days later. I forwarded the email to the patient, as the office did not comply with her request.

I understand how emotional it is when a patient decides to leave the practice. Some we would like to go and they stay. The ones we hate to lose depart due to change of location or life circumstance. Others depart for no reason. Regardless of the circumstances, professional courtesy dictates records requests be sent on a timely basis.

We finally received the radiographs, though the dentist did not forward them to the patient, as she requested. Nevertheless, the patient was happy to move on and she scheduled for a preventive visit with our office. She has found a new dental home.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She is the immediate past president of the American Association of Women Dentists and editor of the American Association of Women Dentists "Chronicle" newsletter. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. You can reach her at

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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