Why do dental patients wait?

I’ve been a practicing dentist for over 18 years. Yet, I find myself always asking “Why do patients wait?” Some of it, I do understand. Maybe fear, maybe money, maybe for no reason at all. Nevertheless, why wait?

I have had several patients call or email the office for an emergency visit. We usually get them in the office the same day. Our office philosophy is “if you have a problem today, and call today, let’s try to see you today”. At that emergency visit, I ask the patient, “What made you call the office today”? The most common answer is pain. Then I’ll do a little more investigating. I’ll ask how long have you been in pain? Now here is where it gets interesting. Some patients will say the pain started last night, or it started a few days ago. I’ll then ask, has this pain ever been there before? 95% of the times, these questions are answered YES! So back to my original question, why do patients wait?
To really answer this question, let’s stop all this talk about teeth, dentistry, emergency visits, money and fear. Let’s talk cars. You bring your car to the mechanic for simple oil change. During the simple oil change, the mechanic says, you need your belts and hoses changed. If you don’t fix them soon, they will cause big, expensive problems. Do you have him change it at that time, or do you wait? Do you wait because of money or fear he may find something else? Most people will have the belts and hoses changed at that time. Why? Because most people don’t want to breakdown on the side of the road with a problem they were already warned about.

Now back to dentistry, you have a routine dental checkup, and the dentist tells you have a deep cavity, and it will cause you problems if it is not fixed in the near future. What do you do? Do you wait, or have it fixed? Do you wait because of money, fear or both? Most people choose to wait, and this is what turns into a dental emergency. Car problems won’t fix themselves, and neither will dental problems. Waiting only increases the cost (of both the car and the teeth). Waiting also increases the fear of both. A breakdown at night on I-95, needing a tow and being stuck for hours, is just as bad as a breakdown of a tooth, and needing an emergency repair in the middle of the night. Both problems could have been avoided “by taking care of the problem when you know there is a problem”.

One last interesting fact is according to ask.com “the average time an American keeps a car is 4 to 5 years”, when your teeth are supposed to last a lifetime! Don’t wait, it will only get worse!

Need more dental infomation, ask Dr. Pierson!

Pierson Dental

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