The Paradox of Choice
As 2019 gets into full swing, we will undoubtedly be presented with a plethora of choices and opportunities in our professional lives. The Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting offers a multitude of clinical and laboratory events, the biannual International Dental Show (IDS) will be held in Cologne, Germany, and the third annual IDT International Digital Denture Symposium will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, in September, just to name a few. Webinars and other options like podcasts and in-house learning opportunities will also assuredly continue to thrive, providing members of the dental community with even more freedom and ways to expand our knowledge, continue to grow, and help the dental profession evolve. From an educational viewpoint, I believe that the more options we have, the better we as technicians will help guide our patients' satisfaction.
This abundance of options can have both positive and negative effects. In the TED talk based on his book The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz discusses living in a society overflowing with more options and choices than ever before. It is hard to imagine that the very freedom that we have fought to achieve may actually be causing some problems. Schwartz argues that overwhelming possibilities can, in fact, result in more harm than good, contributing to greater dissatisfaction.
If we reflect on this paradox of choice, this overabundance of information and options, we can see how this dilemma has truly pervaded our society and even the dental industry. How many of us in the dental profession have experienced situations in which patients already invented their own treatment plan before meeting with a professional? With so many options today that didn't exist in the past and easy access to a wealth of information, patients can come to conclusions regarding desired materials, preferred procedures, and anticipated results that are not realistic, medically sound, or esthetically feasible. Having done so much generalized research that may or may not be applied to their case, the patient creates a set of expectations that may not be possible or prudent, then may be dissatisfied when professional advice does not match what they had envisioned.
With the rapid rise in technology, greater artistic awareness, and new techniques and materials, we have a much larger toolkit than any of our predecessors. It seems paradoxical that the liberties provided by education and technology can create problems. Schwartz shows a fish in a bowl saying to another fish, "You can be anything you want to be—no limits;" while complete freedom is appealing, it sometimes complicates our decisions. Therefore, we have a responsibility to remain firm in our knowledge—gained through both education and experience—in order to guide patients through the array of options now available. Adhere to those that truly apply to each case, taking patient desires into consideration without allowing them to override what is needed. Advances in dentistry are advantageous and allow a more nuanced and skillful treatment of each case. While the paradox of choice may ring true for patients, creating confusion and unrealistic expectations, it is our responsibility to guide patients to the choices that best utilize our knowledge and technology to create the most functionally sound, esthetic results.
Peter Pizzi, MDT, CDT