May letter from the ADIA executive director

May 23, 2011

By Lynn Mortilla
Executive Director, ADIA

Dear Colleague,
Imagine if you had a doctor’s appointment for an infection in your finger. Your doctor reviewed three or four different treatment options and their pros and cons, as well as the fee for each procedure. Would you listen and then ask the doctor to amputate the finger? You have nine other useful fingers … Crazy right? Yet don’t we hear our patients say this about their teeth? Why is that? Where have we gone wrong in our education and communication with these people? What message are they missing?

I think patients fail to grasp the fact that edentulism is not a static condition but a disease process. We know that teeth allow us to do more than just chew and eat (which consequently is necessary for survival). Teeth support the lips and cheeks, add to speech and pronunciation, help maintain vertical dimension and occlusion, and maintain the jawbone. Loss of teeth without replacement is responsible for a myriad of problems, including structural changes to the face and jaw, shifting of adjacent teeth, occlusal discrepancies, TMJ problems, and more.

We tend to focus our treatment discussion around the cure, not the disease. If your patients seem to be missing the message, take some time to focus on the disease, and call it a disease. Another place that some of this message can be shared is in our dental history form or assessment. A question such as, are you aware of any bone loss, facial changes, or wrinkles, can open a powerful dialogue. Work on a team approach to this dialogue where everyone in your office shares the same message. I hope it will improve your patients’ understanding and encourage more people to say yes to treatment with implants.

Lynn Mortilla
Executive Director, ADIA