An Open Letter to my Patient

In Diagnostics, Health, Impacting Patients, She's a Dentist, Treatment Plans by Maggie Augustyn

You put your kids first. You put your spouse first. Groceries, your mortgage, phone and cable bill, it all comes first. What about the new overpriced sneakers for your son, or brand name jeans for your daughter… should those come first too? Or maybe it is finally your turn?

The idea of investing in your mouth, whether it be for health, function or cosmetics is a decision that you and many of my other patients struggle with. The copays, deductibles, and benefits in a dental plan haven’t changed in decades. In the 80s an annual maximum might have covered a couple of crowns and a root canal or two, but today it will not even cover an implant placement. What is most crippling in this new landscape of insurance coverage is the idea that somehow because the insurance company doesn’t cover it, you deem it unnecessary. The message is not only erroneous it’s quite unfair to you, as my patient and to me, as your provider. 

Budgets, incomes, disposable monies remain a fixed income for many of us, including you. The responsibility of managing and balancing the home budget very often eliminates your own needs, entirely forgetting the wants. But the value that a healthy, functioning and pleasing smile brings, as you look back at yourself in the mirror and grin, is priceless. And more importantly, it may be time to consider not just the cost of submitting to the necessary treatment, we’ve been talking about for months, but also the cost of not following through with the treatment.

Allow me to explain:

Imagine looking into the mirror and intentionally ignoring the missing space seen when you smile too wide, or the discolored front tooth. The broken smile, you chose to avoid each time you look in the mirror prevents you from experiencing self-love you would otherwise feel if you smile back at yourself. Did you know that curling up your lips to smile releases happy chemicals such as dopamine which make your day go easier and your problems seem smaller? Did you know that if you started each day with a smile you’d gather the confidence to take on that particular day? It would affect you as a mother, father, wife, husband, provider and even friend.

Gathering the necessary funds to change your smile today, will not only give you more confidence tomorrow but build on it, year after year. And why not do it now, and gain an additional 5, 10, 15 years as opposed to waiting until the kids are out of college. 

It’s taken you years to forget how to be good to yourself. Taken you years to learn to avoid the mirror. And, years to convince yourself, you ought to come in last. Let it be your turn to smile, to shine, to love yourself again. Let it be your turn to find yourself in good spirits to congratulate yourself on this success and a sense of freedom. Your turn to fall in love with yourself, to look at the mirror and to smile again.

A chain reaction of investing in yourself will not only bring you great confidence fortified by your new smile but also a sensation that someone, somewhere took care of you. And simply put that someone happens to be you.

A word of disclosure:

In today’s culture, we often wonder, when proposed with a treatment plan of change: What will the doctor gain? What lies behind this pressure? How much money is to be made on each smile makeover? And even crudely so: does the doctor need to pay for her kid’s college? As frank and honest as these questions are, allow me to be just as forthright in my answer: whether it’s you or the next patient in my schedule who chooses me as their provider; in truth, financially, I have nothing extra to gain. I have been in private practice for more than 15 years and have established myself as a dentist, I will be financially fit, no matter your choice. 

I love my work, I love my team, I love the science of dentistry. Whether it’s my honor to work with you, or whether you chose another provider, the level of satisfaction I feel within myself will remain the same. My practice, and my philosophy, isn’t to gain treatment plans, it’s to make patients aware of things they’ve been working hard to ignore. My job, as a provider, is to counsel you on the benefits of treatment that not only I provide, but any other dentist might serve you with. If you leave me and chose another dentist, it will still have been my honor to get to know you and to have served you. I will always love my work, whether you choose to stay or go.