Jack of All Trades, Master of None | Dr. Max Zaslavsky

Jack of All Trades, Master of None.

Remember when doctors made housecalls? It wasn’t too long ago where a doctor would know you were too sick to make it into the office, so after work, he would bring his little black bag, with the wooden stick to check your tongue, and that thing that shines light into your eyes, and would diagnose you at the comfort of your own bed. My oh my, how things have changed……

I remember back when I was in college, a physician came to lecture to my undergrad pre-med/pre-dental society and I asked him, “Hey doc, what happened to the housecall?”

He responded, “With the changes in technology, and as we have progressed in the medical field, the black bag is no longer sufficient to properly diagnose an ailment.” The same holds true in what I do in the dental field.

Once upon a time, barbers were the original dentists. It’s true! Google it! You would get a haircut, and if you had a toothache, your barber would lance the tooth out after a few good shots of whiskey, bourbon, or whatever moonshine was there. Now with the ever changing field of medicine and dental that we live in, barbers cut hair….and maybe a shave.

Routinely I refer patients to a specialist for various reasons. The primary reason is because it is out of my field of expertise. Every so often, I get the complaint that a patient is upset because I will not do a certain procedure like a root canal. Even claiming it’s because under their insurance plan, I would not be compensated adequately and I don’t care about them. Realistically, it’s not that I won’t do THAT root canal. It’s more that a specialist in this particular incident, someone called an endodontist, will do it faster, better, and probably under a microscope in order to access and clean every canal of that particular tooth. Remember, in dentistry as in carpentry, the right person will know when to measure twice in order to only drill once. It saves time, and redo’s.

On the other end of the spectrum, I see patients who regret having a general dentist do a procedure that a specialist SHOULD have done. I saw the ramifications of an implant procedure done so poorly that the general dentist had broken the patient’s jaw. The referred patient came in from another office not knowing why she was in so much pain, and we had to give her the bad news. Of course, this was after she had spent so much time and money in the other office, and now we would have to start from scratch.

So the point to all this- yes a specialist is more money than seeing a general dentist. And yes, a general dentist can SOMETIMES do the same procedure at a reduced cost, and be extremely good at it. Sure you will save money, but what happens when something fails, and now you need the periodontist, oral surgeon, etc. to redo all of it? Short term it’s cheap, but long term it’s more time and money. And just like you the reader, “I ain’t got time for that!”

In the end, just be sure you are in the right hands. As technology, and dental research grows, the days of the “super general dentist” are coming to a close. Sure, you will have general dentists who are more than capable to do more than the usual and customary procedures, but as always, do your research!