When seeking dental care for a particular oral concern, it’s not uncommon to receive a different opinion from one dentist to the next regarding the proper course of action. But why is that? Why can guidance vary so greatly for the same dental issue—and how do you ultimately choose the right dentist?

To make sense of why one practitioner can recommend minor dental work (or nothing at all) while another prescribes considerable therapy, it’s important to understand what exactly goes into a dentist’s diagnosis and treatment advice. The greatest variance in care recommendations generally comes from the fact that a clear-cut “right” or “wrong” way to treat an individual rarely exists. For example, in the case of moderate to significant tooth decay, one dentist may propose saving the tooth and reinforcing it with a dental crown while another dentist might advocate for extracting the tooth and replacing it with a dental implant.

While all philosophies are (or at least should be) founded in science, every dentist has his or her own particular beliefs regarding specific dental issues and how to properly treat them—all of which are based on their past education, the specific training they’ve undergone, and their personal experiences in practice. Consequently, diagnostic criteria, judgement of a problem’s severity, history of resolving similar cases, and various other factors can be entirely different from one dentist to the next, resulting in proposals that fall all over the spectrum in terms of treatment extent.

With this in mind, dentists are proposing what they believe to be most beneficial for a patient based on clinical knowledge, personal philosophies, and previous experiences. It just so happens that, in cases where they feel extensive treatment is necessary for optimal long-term dental health and function, the cost of care will likely be higher.

Another point to consider is that dental fees can vary widely depending on a dentist’s background, skill, experience, technologies, materials, and overall prestige. As a result, a seasoned, highly respected dentist who utilizes state-of-the-art systems and products will presumably charge more for his or her services than someone with less experience and limited access to top-of-the-line equipment and materials—even if the recommended treatment is exactly the same.

More often than not, treatment recommendations (and therefore costs for care) are based on a dentist’s educational and clinical background, personal beliefs, and professional expertise. While dentists should properly communicate all diagnostic details and potential treatment options, it is the patient’s responsibility in the end to ensure they fully comprehend their unique case—including what the issue is, what will happen if it goes untreated, and what solutions are available. This way, a fully informed, confident decision can be made in regard to one’s care.

If at any point you feel you don’t connect well with a particular dentist, continue your search for someone else. Most dentists are in the profession to improve the well-being of others, and the right one is out there for you.

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