What is the short version for the purpose of our profession? I don’t remember the exact words of the Dental Hippocratic Oath that I recited after graduation, but I’m sure it said something along the lines of, ‘Be the best dentist I can be for my patients.’
I bet a quick Google search would remind me but for now let’s not worry about the details. Let me just focus on the principle of what I and many others have verbally agreed to do.
At the time of my pledge to this creed, maybe with my right hand raised, I solemnly swore and accepted the responsibility to make sure that the people I serve would get the best version of me. Their best interest would always be my best interest. I think that pretty much sums it up.
Is it safe to assume that ultimately our patient’s best interest is to keep their teeth? Sure, many of our patients may not act like keeping their teeth is their best interest and I’m guilty at times of putting all the blame on the patient. I mean, it’s their teeth! I didn’t have anything to do with their teeth breaking, cracking, or falling out.
Or did I?
Upholding the Oath of Our Profession
I don’t know about you, but after seeing hundreds of new patients a month for years something eventually started to dawn on me. Many of the patients coming through my practice had obviously been to the dentist during their lifetime, yet looking back at a history of their oral health revealed that things didn’t seem to be getting better.
This was really confusing to me. Didn’t we all solemnly swear to uphold the Dental Hippocratic Oath that bound us to treat our patients with their best interest in mind? So, if the patient’s best interest is to ultimately keep their teeth, and after years of seeing a dentist (or 10) they are continuing to lose teeth or tooth structure, then something is not right.
Either the patient is to blame, the Dental Hippocratic Oath needs to change because it’s an impossible task, or maybe I’m not living up to my end of the bargain. My personal view is it’s a combination.
I will save the discussion/debate on how much is the patient’s responsibility for a later date. What I believe to be true is that in some ways we are not living up to our end of the bargain. And when I say ‘we,’ I am specifically looking at myself in the mirror …