When You Disagree on a Treatment Plan

Dental Industry

With multiple dentists working in the same office, it’s just a matter of time before two of them disagree on a particular patient’s treatment plan. Especially if there is a generational or educational gap of some sort between the providers. Even then, colleagues that have attended the same dental school within the same period of time may find that they disagree on some things.

Working together for the better of the patient is the most important focus. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you or a colleague disagree on a care plan:

What are the Patient’s Preferences? Budget?

If the patient is older, they may not want to invest in dental implants or a fixed bridge - a removable partial may be what appeals to them most. Or, they may be on a limited income and need to have a cheaper type of treatment done while they save money for a better one later on. It could be that a more appropriate option was presented to them, but they chose another route due to personal reasons.

The Patient’s History of Care

Has this patient had a similar treatment in the past that they did not respond to well? Are they prone to poor follow-up care? Factors such as these can mean the difference in recommending an extraction vs. a root canal for some patients. Maybe they recently came from another practice where they spent 10 years with a dentist who they feel did them wrong, and they just want a quick fix. The key is to get to know the background of the patient.

Read the Chart

Does the other dentist have notes inside of the patient chart discussing what options were presented to or denied by the patient? Good note keeping can clear up confusion between practitioners, especially if they frequently share patients.

Discussed the Subject with the Dentist Who Made the Diagnosis

If other information does not present evidence as to why the other dentist may have a significant disagreement with a particular type of treatment, then it is necessary to approach them directly with your concern. It’s best to keep these discussions as non-confrontational as possible, and in private in most cases. Keep the conversation simple, such as “Hey Kathy, I noticed that you recommended a DO amalgam on Mrs. Smith’s #5. It looks like it’s pretty deep though - did you talk to her about the fact that it might need a root canal once I get in there and start cleaning it out? What was your plan on that one?”

An open line of communication between dentists, even when they disagree on treatment, can encourage a respectful working relationship for many years to come. Never, ever, complain about another provider’s method of care behind their back or directly to the patient being treated. It’s one thing to make sure the patient is educated on one choices are available to him or her, but it’s another to undermine the professional role of your associate.


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