Dentists today are working in an environment where the expectations of patients are no longer simply about having problems fixed. The days of “doctor knows best” are long since gone. High street general practice dentists have been aware for some time now of the public having shifted from the mind-set of “compliant patient” to “demanding customer”.
In many ways dentistry has moved from being a matter of health care provision to one of consumer service. One of the effects of this can be seen in the increasing tendency of patients to adopt the “customer is always right” view of their dental care. General Practitioners who have traditionally “competed” for patients have gradually come to realise this and have had to deal with it over time.
Such a view however appears to be becoming increasingly prevalent in the patient groups which access their care through HSE clinics. There is a growing awareness in the wider public of the techniques of modern dentistry, or at least of the results which these can achieve. It is however fair to say that there is not always a clear understanding that certain types of treatment may not be available under HSE arrangements.
Patients, and particularly their parents, carers and others who may have an interest in the welfare of the patient, do not always appreciate the differences between “need” and “want”. There can often be a gap between actual service availability and the individual sense of entitlement to treatment of the patient or his/her parent or carer.
To avoid problems arising, it is essential that the clinician manages expectations around treatment effectively, and at an early stage.
This will go a long way to prevent the misunderstandings and disappointment which all too often can lead to dissatisfaction with the service received or even resentment at the approach to care taken by the clinician.