I Was Asked to Rate My Smile at the Dentist Today…

October 4, 2023

After cracking a tooth on Sunday, I couldn’t put it off any longer – yes the dreaded dentist ! 😔

As as a new patient, I had to fill in a form with a brief medical history and at the bottom I was asked to rate my smile which completely threw me! So I turned to the dentist and his assistant nurse and asked them what this meant.
The nurse replied “Are you happy with your smile?” Even more baffled, I said “Well you tell me, is my smile friendly enough? I know I smile a lot, but at the end of the day, it’s the only smile I have.”

Truth be told, I expect this was their way of opening the conversation as to whether I wanted to have my teeth whitened or arrange for some straighteners which seems to be the “in thing” at the moment. I can remember asking my previous dentist about teeth straightening and he told me not to bother; I was quite happy with his answer. I am what I am and I don’t need any further procedures in my life to interfere with enjoying it.

I understand that some people have bad front teeth, but surely this could be broached in conversation when they are examined, so they are not made to declare that they aren’t happy with their smile in writing? A question like this just strikes me as not really considering the emotions of the patient.

They then went on to ask me to consent to having X-rays done so they could establish the underlying health of my teeth. When I asked about the safety of the x-rays, the dentist replied with the standard answer of “it’s less rays than you would get on a return flight to California”. But what I wanted was information on the safety data related to the equipment they use and how many more cases of cancer or other related medical problems were caused by the x-rays. It turns out I am the first patient he has had who has asked the question and the dentist himself did not know…

Why would you not want to know about the safety of something you’re asking your patients to undergo in quantitative terms?

Do we, as patients, accept what we are asked to do without questioning the rationale in the case of certain treatments?

I don’t recall my parents being x-rayed routinely at the dentist (seems like they like to do this every 2 years now.). I accept that advances in diagnostics mean that our medical carers can try to pre-empt problems, but these come at a cost, including to the NHS if you’re lucky enough to be accepted onto a dental practice that has a space for NHS patients.

When we go for a check up with our doctor, are we offered tests routinely when we don’t have a medical condition? It’s my experience that doctors treat symptoms and not many patients are offered the human equivalent of a car’s MOT. I know of women who have to fight or are refused a bone density test once they have hit menopause to check for any underlying issues so that things can be done about this before problems occur.

Have you had any medical procedures mentioned to you that you would never have thought of unless they had been suggested? And more importantly, how did this make you feel?

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