When you are still going through the Dawson curriculum, do you wait to treat or do you try anything immediately?
This is an important question for anyone still learning occlusion and smile design. When you look at the totality of what we're training you to do, there are still a lot of patients who need preliminary mouth preparation to get healthy. There’s still periodontal and biological work to be done, like fillings and build ups. There are also going to be patients that don't have tremendous functional problems.
Here is what I did with patients with functional problems while I was still learning:
I tried to recognize the patients that I wasn't yet ready to treat. And if I wasn't ready to treat them, I was honest with them about that. I would say, "Look, I'm training hard to learn how to solve this problem. In the meantime, we're going to clean your teeth and keep your gums healthy. And I'm going to keep your teeth free of decay. And I'm going to make this splint and keep you from doing more damage. I'm going to hold you together until I'm ready."
This plan built a nice little reservoir of patients that, when I felt ready, I could perform a work-up, complete exam and consult. The first ten years of my practice, I was fixing existing patients. I didn't need any new patients. There were a bunch of them that were ready for me.
It may seem like I’m telling you to hold off on production by telling you to wait on treating these patients now.
I want you to think about what it would cost if you treated even one of those patients and weren't ready. It would cost you stomach lining, money, time, and re-makes. You aren’t holding off treating them altogether, either. When we talk about case sequencing, we teach that you get mouths healthy biologically, then functionally, and finally do the prosthetics. So start with getting your patients’ mouths healthy biologically.
The best thing is to know your skill sets. Balance your confidence level with your competence level.
As you go through the curriculum, I think you'll be very surprised at how quickly you will be able to handle cases that you can't even imagine handling now.