“I Have To See A Specialist? Why Can’t You Do It?!”

Dentistry is a specialty of medicine. Within dentistry, there are subspecialties.  There are oral surgeons that only do surgery such as removing teeth and placing implants.  There are periodontists that focus on gum surgery and placing implants as well.  Then you have endodontists that are dentists that do root canals all day.  There are pediatric dentists that only treat kids.  And we all know what orthodontists do.  There are more dental specialists I haven’t even mentioned- all with advanced training and additional years of schooling.

If dentistry is so complicated that it warrants dental specialists, do you really think your general dentist can do it all?  Some patients do!  They get upset that their dentist can’t do everything “in house”.  Yes, going to another office is a pain.  You have to set up an appointment, fill out more paperwork, see a stranger for a procedure you probably don’t want to have done, and then come back to your general dentist.  Is it worth it?  Depends if you value your teeth or not.  Do you want good work and a good experience or do you want convenience?

When your dentist gives you a referral to see a specialist, s/he is saying, “I’m putting you in the best hands possible to handle this procedure.  Your health and well-being are more important to me than losing out on potential income.”  Is the specialist more expensive? Maybe. But dental insurance usually pays more when a specialist does the procedure.  You also have to ask yourself some questions.  Even though you might pay a little more, will the treatment last longer?  Will it be more convenient?  “My general dentist says he can do it but it will take 3 hours while the specialist can do it in 45 minutes.”  Does that have any value to you?  Have you ever had to hold your mouth open for 3 hours??

Here’s another thing to consider.  Not all specialists are created equal.  I’ve had patients that threw away my referral and found another specialist- usually at a cheaper cost.  Guess what?  The work had to be redone.  It was a nightmare to deal with.  Trust your dentist.  My favorite patients are the ones that ask, “Is this the person you would send your kids to?”  Yep, that’s them.  I assume you come to me because I’m the best at what I do.  I also send you to whomever I think is the best.  I don’t want problems coming back to fall in my lap and I’m sure you don’t either.

You probably don’t want to see a general dentist that claims to do everything that comes in the door.  Most general dentists I’ve met that claim to be good at everything I wouldn’t let near my mouth.  Some are truly dedicated and are masters in all aspects of dentistry.  They’ve taken countless hours of continuing education to master all aspects of dentistry.  These dentists are however very rare (more rare than current marketing suggests).

Most general dentists provide a nice mix of the most common procedures done at the highest level. When they know the specialist can do a better job handling your needs, they refer. Luckily, in my area we have great specialists that are committed to doing things right.   There isn’t much to be gained to try to do it all yourself (unless that BMW payment is due).  Luckily, I drive a VW that’s paid for.