Are second opinions okay?
When your dentist informs you of a laundry list of serious procedures that he or she believes is completely necessary, it’s all right to wonder if they really are. So should you get a second opinion? Do people do that with dentistry? The short answer is: if it makes you more comfortable, yes.
You wouldn’t get brain surgery after only one doctor recommended it, would you? The reasoning behind second opinions is not meant to undermine the authority of your dentist; it’s only meant to ensure that all your options are laid out on the table for you to make the best decision for your health. Richard Price, DMD, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association reminds patients: “You’re never wrong in seeking a second opinion.”
Of course, there is a certain level of trust you should have with your dentist—you shouldn’t feel the need to get second opinions on cavities, or changing fillings. Gum surgery or oral cancer diagnoses, on the other hand, definitely merit a second opinion if you are feeling unsure. Other cases when you should feel comfortable asking for a second opinion include if your current treatment is not fixing your oral health issues, if you are worried about cost, or if you feel at all uncomfortable with your current dentist.
Even if you do have an excellent rapport with your dentist, you may want to consider a second opinion for major oral health concerns. For example, seeing a specialist. Specialists have extensive education about their particular field, as well as more experience in dealing with problems within that field than a general dentist.
So how do you start the process of getting a second opinion? First things first, if you have a good relationship with your dentist, ask them! Often times your dentist will know specialists or other dentists in your area who you can turn to for a second look. You can try contacting a dental society or dental school for a referral—the ADA, for example, has a site where you can find ADA members in your area. Check with your insurance before going in to make sure the referral is covered!
When you go for your second opinion, have a list of questions ready to ask. These could range from preliminary “do you agree with this diagnosis?” to assessing what the new dentist feels are the risks, costs, and benefits of the treatment options. You can find a list of more questions to ask here.
And what if your dentists don’t agree? Price says there’s only one thing to do— “if the second opinion is different from the first opinion, get a third opinion.” Remember, this is your oral health, and you want to make the best decision for your unique situation. Don’t rush into procedures unless you are totally comfortable with the answers and options given to you.