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Correct Diagnosis is the Key to Proper Dental Treatment

I learned a very important concept during my specialty training. My greatest mentor taught me that there are many ways to treat a problem but there is only one correct diagnosis. Over the years the wisdom of this remark has become very clear to me: one cannot provide reliable and effective treatment for a patient unless an accurate diagnosis has been made.

The entire dental education process, including the endpoint, is about making something—such as a filling or a crown, or perhaps cementing a bridge or delivering the dentures to the patient. Dentistry is full of these very mechanically oriented processes and in this way it resembles trade school education.

While learning mechanics is important, dental students often focus on what they are doing rather than why they are doing it. When studying dentistry in universities, for example, students do not receive adequate training in how to diagnose and understand the system so that complex treatment approaches can be generated and applied. Most dentists only come to a fuller understand of diagnostics after dental school when they pursue either a specialty education program or continuing dental education courses through their career.

Second opinions are a useful part of the diagnostic process for practitioners who care about their patients and who want to be great at what they do for them. The objective of a second opinion is to have another clinician take a comprehensive look at the patient, question all the assumptions made by the first dentist, and delve deeply into the nature of the problem. A second opinion is a great way to either confirm a diagnosis or arrive at the correct diagnosis.

By placing an emphasis on diagnosis and not being afraid to seek a second opinion, dentists can provide optimal care for patients.

Dr. Karl A. Rose
Periodontal & Implant Associates of Greater Washington
Chevy Chase, MD
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