Successful outcomes

There are many ways that dentistry can ‘fail’. Here are some factors that can impact on a patients’ experience of dental treatment and, if managed correctly, should lead to a successful outcome…


Trust, confidence and mutual respect are an absolute necessity between the patient and the dentist. Experiencing pain or receiving ‘brusk’ treatment in any way can damage this trust for a patient, regardless of the quality of the treatment provided. Try to make your concerns and thoughts about your treatment as clear as possible to your clinician throughout the treatment.

Continuity / Attendance Record

Patients who repeatedly change their dentist will inevitably create confusion. The new dentist hasn’t the luxury of referring to previous records to assist with a consistent plan of action. Different dentists may actually contradict each other and confuse the patient. If a patient chooses to only attend when they have a perceived problem at irregular or lengthy intervals a dentist is likely to treat the patient more quickly, causing higher chances of tooth loss than another patient who visits their dentist at regular intervals throughout their lifetime.

Communication Skills

The first consultation at a dentist is critical for the right diagnosis, and for some people can be nothing less than traumatic. Clinical trials have shown that nervous patients may find it difficult to communicate their concerns or listen to the details of what is being said, leading to subsequent misunderstandings. Try to write down your dental problems in preparation of your next visit to the dentist so you don’t miss anything, and request a written report of the diagnosis.

Emotional History

Patients with a chronic history of anxiety or depressive illness find it difficult to cope with stressful life crises. A visit to the dentist can be such a crisis and as a consequence the patient’s adaptation to changes introduced with treatment may prove to be too much. It is well established in clinical research that highly stressed or emotionally charged individuals suppress their immunological competence which may lead to slow healing after surgery or a poor response to dental infections. Greater discomfort can also be experienced and cause exaggerated symptoms, potentially causing ‘over-treatment’ or additional problems than first diagnosed. It is often suggested that the patient should request the support of a friend or family member to ‘coach’ them through the treatment, which often leads to a less stressful and more successful outcome.


As information has become increasingly more available through the media of television, the Internet, etc., patients are often far better informed than those in the past. As more and more dentistry is prescribed and provided by private practitioners (outside the remit of the NHS) inevitably expectations are raised. Risks and benefits of any treatment must be understood by every patient so that suitable actions can be taken to manage expectations correctly.

Primary Disease Control

I’m sure it’s no surprise that any dentistry will inevitably lead to recurring problems if a patient does not assume responsibility for their oral health as much as the dentist does. Both the dentist and patient have equally important responsibilities to ensure treatment is successful. So, don’t forget your toothbrush!

Mechanical Factors

It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that a dentist may prescribe a metal filling to a boxer and a porcelain filling to a ballerina. Many of the choices provided by a dentist will take into account the nature of the patients’ needs. All materials used by a dentist will have a finite life, some more than others.

General Health

Your health can directly impact dental treatment. Many health problems are known to cause oral hygiene problems such as diabetes or arthritis. Be sure to tell your dentist any changes in your health. Even catching a cold can slow the healing process.


Your job can have both emotional and environmental impact on oral hygiene. Bakers commonly had problems with tooth decay as a result of refined flour in the air whereas many modern stressful careers can cause people to grind their teeth. Try to consider how your career might impact on the health of your teeth and gums.


It has been well established that smoking can affect your general health and oral hygiene, as well as diet, eating disorders, or even personal habits such as thumb sucking. Be prepared to disclose as much as you are able during initial diagnosis to ensure your treatment is as effective as it can be.

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