Mindset for Improvement
Have you ever worked with a new hairstylist? I would wager that in less than 5 minutes of sitting in the chair, the stylist poses the infamous question, "Who cut your hair last?" Just like the hairstylist who presumes that whoever cut your hair was unskilled, inexperienced, or careless, technicians presented with sub-par restorations can be tempted to make similar assumptions. Our first instinct is to immediately conclude that a previous doctor or technician was less proficient or that their work was inadequate. As a colleague once recommended, we should avoid these rash judgments of others' work. Very often, we are not fully aware of the preceding circumstances or conversations between the patient and professional—such as information provided, position prepared, and materials requested—resulting in the patient's ultimate dissatisfaction with the final product. Tooth position, color, gingival architecture preparation, design, and esthetic display are all criteria for proper case planning. Taking this good or bad information into consideration to plan treatment before anything is done is key to a successful outcome.
In my own experiences of dealing with patients unhappy with their previous outcome, I try hard to adhere to that advice. Admittedly, on some occasions, it can be difficult to refrain from judgment when evaluating the esthetics of others' work. Despite the immediate inclination to criticize, we must try to retain objectivity. When we are faced with a case that, in our opinion, is lacking in esthetic value, we should aim to understand the circumstances that brought about the dissatisfaction and seek to improve communication for a more desirable result. It is crucial for there to be communication between the technician and dentist to evaluate and assess a strategy that coincides with the patient's desires. Improvement is a team concept.
A mindset for improvement rather than judgment is key. With that said, we must also appreciate quality work and recognize that the patient is not "always right." A patient's dissatisfaction should not be viewed as an opportunity for our own financial gain. Our objective eye must remain discerning, capable of acknowledging quality work and recognizing legitimate esthetic concerns.
Knowledge is the key to objectivity and keen perception, and, as I have stressed in the past, the importance of education is fundamental and allows us to skillfully address cases. As we become more knowledgeable, we may become more difficult to satisfy, but our efforts should prove more and more satisfactory to professionals and patients alike. While our priority lies in making the patient happy, it is of equal importance to create a result that does not compromise the integrity of the work of the dentist and technician. Joint satisfaction of the patient and dental team is not always easily achieved, but is the result toward which we continually strive.
Peter Pizzi, MDT, CDT