If you've ever received a troubling diagnosis at a dental exam, you've probably been told by a well-meaning friend or family member to "get a second opinion" before resigning yourself to whatever treatment plan is prescribed. But is this a good idea, and if it is- how do you know the second opinion will be useful? Dr. Michele Simpson breaks it all down for you.
Recently, a patient came in for a routine exam and was told he needed a crown. He had a cavity, which while not very bad yet was very close to a large, pre-existing filling. We determined at this point that rather than try to put another filling in the same tooth, it would be better for the tooth to put a crown on it. The patient was understandably concerned with this proposed course of treatment, so we suggested he seek a second opinion for his own peace of mind.
Second opinions are great tools for both the patient and the dentist because it lets a fresh pair of eyes take a look at the problem. Often, the second opinion will echo what the first opinion is, which while it won't alleviate any of the fear associated with the diagnosis, may at least ease the uncertainty behind it. It also can help the dentist affirm that he or she was correct in his or her assessment of the problem. This is a best case scenario when it comes to second opinions. Another best case scenario might be that the other practitioner has an even better alternative to the first practitioner's treatment plan, which may eliminate some stress for the patient.
On the other side, if the second opinion is different, that can be confusing for patients, because they may not know whose diagnosis to trust- or whose treatment plan to choose. So what are some things you can do to make the process of getting a second opinion a little easier?
First, find a specialist: If your dentist says your child needs their wisdom teeth out, for example, but you don't agree, seek out a maxillofacial surgeon for a second opinion. A maxillofacial surgeon is a doctor who deals with this type of surgery on a daily basis, so he or she should be able to not only tell you whether or not your child needs their wisdom teeth out but what you can expect from such a surgery.
Next, bring the second opinion back to your dentist- or let the new dentist call your dentist directly on your behalf. Dentists are human; sometimes we miss things. Sometimes other dentists know of newer treatments that might work, or have tried something else in a similar situation and think it might work for your treatment, too. By allowing the two practitioners to communicate, they can educate each other, and make sure that your needs are being met.
Last, if steps one and two fails, ask a friend. If you can't find a specialist and aren't sure where to go for a second opinion, see if your friends can recommend a trusted practitioner, or use social media to help you- ask your Facebook friends if anyone has had the same procedure done and can provide some insight into what is being proposed. Often we seek second opinions out of fear, and friends and family who may have had that procedure already can help quell our fears by reassuring us it wasn't that painful. Even after you've gotten a second opinion, talking it through with friends and family can be very reassuring.
Remember, it's your health and your right to seek a second opinion. If you are at all uncomfortable with your diagnosis and treatment plan, don't avoid a second opinion to spare your dentist's feelings. If you are concerned that your insurance may not cover a second opinion, call your insurance provider and check your coverage. If they your insurance won't cover a second opinion and you cannot afford the out of pocket cost, speak to the practice you would like to be evaluated by. Many practices offer free consultations or will work with your budget. Don't feel pressured into accepting a diagnosis you aren't 100% sure about.
If you need a second opinion or even a first, give Dr. Simpson a call at (910) 791-7911