When people first come into our office for biological dental treatment, they’re often happily surprised by how much time we spend just talking with them before even beginning the necessary exams and tests. We do this for a few reasons. For one, it helps us all – patient, dentist and staff – to start establishing clear communication and rapport. Good things in themselves, these also pave the way for a positive treatment experience.
It’s also important for us to get the big picture of each client’s complete health history. Only then can we come to understand all of the factors that may contribute to – or result from – their dental situation, including those that may have been overlooked by conventional dentists who aren’t fully informed of the issues involving mercury fillings, root canals, cavitations and other factors that can contribute to systemic illness.
On a similar note, these initial conversations give us an opportunity to get to know each client as an individual, each with a unique health history and life circumstances. We get to know their goals, desires and priorities. Only in this way can we provide specifically targeted care that meets their needs and helps them heal.
The value in this approach was pounded home to us recently by reports of a study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. According to a media release titled “Physicians Perform Poorly When Patients Need Special Care,”
Patients often receive inappropriate care when their doctors fail to take into account their individual circumstances, according to a new study by the University of Illinois at Chicago and the VA Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care.
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“Physicians did quite well at following guidelines or standard approaches to care, but not so well at figuring out when those approaches were inappropriate because of a particular patient’s situation or life context,” said Dr. Saul Weiner, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at UIC and staff physician at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, who was lead author of the study.
Weiner said physicians need to understand why a patient is failing, for instance, to control their asthma, rather than just increase the dose of the drugs they prescribe. Specific issues – such as the lack of health insurance, the need for less costly treatment, or difficulty understanding or following instructions – must be recognized when making clinical decisions. Inattention to such issues leads to what are called “contextual errors” in patient care.
Of course, this is a challenge in the world of corporate-controlled health care, where physicians and dentists are often in a rush, trying to see as many patients as possible each day. You can’t listen when you rush, and even when you do listen, you may not hear. (One of our clients told us about her last visit to a conventional doctor: how she asked about nutritional approaches to deal with emerging PMS symptoms and was answered with silence and a prescription for fluoxetine, a/k/a Prozac.)
We believe that you can’t help someone heal without getting to know the whole person: listening to what they have to say, hearing it and, instead of following some checklist based on the illusion that human bodies are mere machines, letting their needs, goals and desires guide the decision-making process.