A brief research on dental restorative material colour selection reveals only the dental surgeon’s perspective in choosing the right shade. As in many healthcare professions and cases, patients rely on their doctors to make the right decision for their treatment. The same is true in case of aesthetic restorations, particularly crowns, anterior replacements and implants. But the fact of the matter is that while the current comfort zone of the dentist selecting the shade and patient accepting it may work, the same trend will not continue in the future.
There is no element of surprise here, for the suggestion here is merely the spillover effect of what is already taking place in other healthcare fields. Patients now are more aware and able to retrieve information as effectively as health practitioners. As a result, they have now started demanding equal say in the decision-making process for their health. Hospitals and care clinics now readily invite patients by providing them all information necessary to ensure the patient makes a calculated decision.
While we see a similar level of involvement in orthodontics and surgical treatments in dentistry, the same cannot be said for aesthetic dentistry. Here we must not visualize color selection process from the dentist’s viewpoint. We are in our own fort, we are in our own dental settings, and we are well prepared to handle emergencies. But look at the same situation from the patient’s perspective. The patient may be disinterested in the first place to undergo a dental treatment; necessity urged him forward. The patient is preoccupied in counting his resources, bills and time duration of the treatment. Furthermore, the patient is feeling overwhelmed by the exact physical surroundings which give a comfort cocoon to the patient. It is easy to understand and even empathize that while the patient may think he has been an active member of the decision-making, he may not have been present there at all. Finally, the patient may have his or her own perceptions of dental appearance and the way they should optimally look like.
A recent book by Ashley Latter ‘You are Worth It: Feel Comfortable Communicating Your Fees and Achieve the Income Your Services Deserve’ is a good read for a dental surgeon on how to improve his practice net margins. But the other side of the picture is somewhat hazy. We love it when we think we have communicated well to the patient. But did we is a question we conveniently forget to ask. This is likely to become the next biggest differentiator of your dental surgery, and there is evidence enough to think that.
A recent study by Rosa et al has tapped into this seemingly endless pool of consumer psychology which dental surgeons seem to ignore. The mixed method research aimed to understand the perceptions of dental professionals and laypeople to dental aesthetics in congenitally missing lateral incisors cases. However, here again, the concern is very genuine, since these are cases of congenitally missing anterior teeth. But the thread somewhat links to our concern. The study did find significant differences in perception of smile and dental aesthetic appearance between the two groups of dentists and patients. A similar study was carried out by Machado and colleagues on the same lines but focused on dental symmetry as indicator of dental aesthetics.
Consumer behavior and psychology extends to all kinds of purchasing decisions. Fortunately or otherwise, many patients still think of dental treatments as options, where they shop for their care. This means that contrary to the regular healthcare concepts that are applied in other healthcare settings, dental care may need an in-depth qualitative analysis of the patient’s motivations and expectations of their dental treatments. Grey and colleagues were able to identify some aspects of the motivation factors in their study, but a handful of studies cannot simply surmise the depth and breadth of this concept.
Dental surgeons due to the high complexity and nature of their work, may become limited to the technical aspects of care delivery without focusing on the patient. The patient/consumer is evolving in healthcare, and the same will do so for dentistry. Having a consumer based understanding of the patients’ motivations, reasons, ideals and fears can bridge many gaps that exist in quality dental care.