Tooth Carpenters and Gum Gardeners
Do dentists belong on a pedestal? Be prepared for some Dental Philosophy today.
I’m going to be totally frank with you. Strip away any pretense – the doctor-prestige and professional posturing – and you’ll discover Dentists are basically tooth carpenters and Dental Hygienists are gum gardeners.
Some Dentists will HATE me for saying that. They’re caught up in the whole white-coat-doctor thing and enjoy their lofty position up on that pedestal.
I call that Dental Elitism. That’s where a Dentist begins thinking they’re pretty darned special. They’ve forgotten that they’re just a fellow human beings with a specific set of skills to help you.
Here I come along to pull back the curtain and reveal that the Great Oz is just an old man with a microphone… That us dental folk are just tooth carpenters and gum gardeners.
By the way, dentists can be Smile Artists as well as tooth carpenters if they have that certain knack for Smile Artistry. That’s a story for another day.
Now I promote my office as prestige, because it’s a beautiful place. But really I’m just a regular guy with some dental skills. The only thing that really matters is whether I can help you or not.
In my last post on Dental Sins, I talked about the sin of doing too little. Today I’ll be revealing how lack of emphasis on prevention can be devastating for you.
Old-Style Dentists – Emphasizing Carpentry
With old-style dentistry all the focus was on carpentry and the gardening was neglected.
By gardening I’m referring to Hygiene Services. I like this analogy because it comes down to removing the noxious weeds before they can take over the garden.
With the old-style approach, dental care was reduced to reacting to Dental Emergencies and outbreaks of disease.
Way back in 1985 I took over the practice of Dr. Don Anderson. He had started up from scratch back in 1950.
Like most dentists back then, Don was a tooth carpenter. He didn’t have a hygienist so he would clean everyone’s teeth himself. He saw patients every 30 minutes for a checkup and would often squeeze in a filling as well in that time.
Don was a good man, he provided decent dentistry, charged ridiculously low fees, and never did anything unnecessary. Don’s only Dental Sin was doing too little. In this case, neglecting the preventive aspects of dentistry. How good of a job could he squeeze in during 30 minutes?
He wasn’t alone. Most dentists of that era took a similar approach. Also, back in those days people weren’t very good at home care. Dental Caries (cavities) ran rampant and severe Gum Disease amongst adults was the norm.
People were losing their teeth left right and center. You would be considered lucky if you kept your teeth long enough to lose them all to Gum Disease.
The lesson from that? When prevention is neglected, dentistry becomes a game of chasing the inevitable onslaught of disease. A game where you the patient are the inevitable loser.
Pay attention to the gardening so you can AVOID more of the carpentry.
Here’s the thing. Old-style reactionary dentistry is STILL the default path today. If all you take is a reactionary approach, losing teeth can be expected in the future.
A key part of a Dentist’s role is to raise the bar on level of care.
Leave the Standard of Care up to a patient and most will set the bar far too low. They’ll sink to the old style where they neglect the gum gardening and end up struggling along the Path of Pain as disease gains the upper hand.
With the Dental Sin of doing too little, a dentist can sit back idly and allow patients to self-destruct. That way they can step in and profit from the tooth carpentry work to be done. I talked about that in Dental Pain Exploiters – dentists who take advantage of pain.
The emphasis should be reversed. Pay attention to the gum gardening so you can AVOID more of the tooth carpentry. The less dentistry you have, the better off you are.
New-Style – Dental Hygienists Rule
The focus of new-style dentistry is on optimal health and care.
It means we spend a lot of time and effort helping people stay healthy, and it’s working.
To achieve that, dentists need to break out of tooth-carpentry-mode. They need to set the bar higher on Standard of Care and change the emphasis over to Prevention Services.
None of that happens on its own. Dentists and hygienists have to become LEADERS to make good things happen.
Believe it or not, the total production from our hygienists exceeds that of our doctors almost every day.
That’s unheard of.
What’s the big deal? It means our hygienists are doing a great job.
We spend a lot of time and effort helping people stay healthy, and it’s working. We pay attention to the gum gardening so you can avoid the tooth carpentry.
Every day I get to tell people, “Everything looks great. Keep up the good work!”
Wouldn’t you rather be hearing good news like that?
What dental news are you getting lately?
Stay healthy and keep smiling!
Dr. Joe 🙂
About the Author: Dr. Joe Bulger is a West Toronto dentist. He’s also the founder of Royal York Dental – a respected dental clinic serving Etobicoke since 1950.