What is it you expect when going to the dentist for dental work—painless dentistry, reasonable fees, or pleasant environment and staff? These are all important considerations, but the one thing you should insist upon is quality dental care; this means timely, appropriate treatment for your problem, without any undue complications down the road. However, if at any time you’re not happy with the dental care you receive, there are actions you can take.
What Can Go Wrong?
Whether you’ve gone to the same dentist for years or just started with a new dentist, unexpected complications can occur. For example, a filling may fall out after only a couple of months, you may not be happy with the fit or color of your new crown, you may still be in pain after a root canal or you are experiencing loss of taste and a numb tongue months after having your wisdom teeth removed.
Talk To Your Dentist
The first step, whenever you are dissatisfied with your dental treatment, is to talk with your dentist. Dentists take pride in their work. They want happy customers and will make resolving your problem a priority. It may be as simple as replacing the filling at no charge or sending your crown back to the lab for a better match. In some instances, there may have been a miscommunication about how much pain or soreness you would feel after a procedure. By communicating with your dentist, he or she can weigh in on whether your discomfort is normal and schedule an appointment if necessary.
If you have discussed your concerns and are either not happy with your dentist’s proposed solution or you feel that your complaint is falling on deaf ears, you do have other options.
Disputes between patients and dentists concerning quality of care, appropriateness of treatment, or fees charged are often resolved by the state or a local dental society’s peer review board. An impartial committee of dentists will review your case, examine X-rays and clinical records, discuss details with you and your dentist and if necessary, arrange an examination appointment for you.
United Concordia’s customer service department is another means of registering a quality-of-care complaint whenever a participating dentist is involved. Simply fill out the online form and mail to the address provided within 180 days of identifying the problem.
Standards for Quality
To ensure that you receive quality dental care, the American Dental Association has set treatment standards for dentists to follow based on the most recent scientific evidence. In addition, dentists set their own high standards for quality. University of Pennsylvania dentist Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat says that after treating a patient, she assesses her quality of care by asking the following five questions:
- Have I relieved the patient’s pain appropriately?
- Have I successfully identified and treated any infections?
- Was the treatment adequate to prevent recurrence of an infection?
- Have I restored function with an acceptable aesthetic?
- Have I performed a thorough examination for the patient and not just handled the chief complaint?
It’s important to remember that, like Dr. Jeffcoat, most dentists do assess the quality of the care they provide, making issues of quality in dentistry the exception rather than the rule.
Because your dental health is such a critical component of your overall health, never accept anything less than quality dental care.