Me and My Orthodontist
by Dr. Michel Champagne, BA, DMD, MAGD, IBO, CDE
The ‘’Me’’ stands for the general dentist doing orthodontics and in my view the orthodontist becomes a collaborator. You will have to look for this collaborator and find an orthodontist in your city or close by. Why do we need a collaborator? The reason is really simple and basic. For a GP doing orthodontics, it is almost impossible to acquire all the knowledge and experience to treat every situation patients may have. The big question, there is always one because the big one, is not ‘’Can I start this case?’’ but rather ‘’Can I finish this case to high standards?’’. In reality we could start a case as soon as the informed consent between the patient and the dentist is signed but there is a difference between ethics and professional morality (and sometimes morality is difficult to find). As a licensed GP, my professional code of ethics says that I can treat any case for which I have the proper education and this in any field of dentistry. Now my professional morality kicks in. It is easy for me to convince myself or be convinced by others that I have the knowledge to do the case but do I really have what it takes for that case or does the case present some particularities or difficulties that would be better managed by a more experienced practitioner GP or even a specialist.
When we evaluate a case, we should always be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel i.e. after a diagnosis based on a thorough examination we should have a clear idea of the different procedures to put in place, the possible complications and their solutions, the treatment limitations and also consider the patient cooperation and understanding of what are his or her responsibilities. If we do not have this clear image, we should question our ability to do the case and question our professional morality. The patient is not a laboratory experiment. At this moment the notion of having a team becomes of the outmost importance. Our patient has a right to the best treatment possible. This aspect of treatment is also true for specialists since we know that their level of competence does vary as well as their morality. Accept in your team only extremely skilled specialists to whom you would refer your family.
In conclusion, I hope we see more and more personal awareness of our limits and a better cooperation between groups for a better patient care. This cooperation is beneficial to everyone. The GP will be able to rely on a specialist for the difficult cases he does not want to treat. The specialist will receive more and more referrals of patients in need of advance care for which he was educated. There seems to be a ferocious competition between the orthodontist and the GP that should not be present between knowledgeable open-minded professionals. The specialist should realize that he will always be the specialist and the GP doing orthodontics is not a threat.
Just a wish for better cooperation and better patient care.