In a world that’s so used to moving fast, it is becoming increasingly important to know when and where to slow down. And dentistry just so happens to be one of those areas – thanks to the global phenomenon Slow Dentistry that has gained popularity in over 50 countries worldwide. I know what you’re thinking: why would patients want to spend any longer than they already have to at their dentist? Let’s discuss why.
Let’s break it down: what is Slow Dentistry?
Your oral health is so connected to your systemic health that, if something is missed early on, it can have a major impact on your overall wellbeing. And if a few more minutes in the chair means less long-term pain and discomfort, who wouldn’t want that? Slow Dentistry is the concept of implementing a careful, and therefore slightly longer, experience to your dentist appointments. This is achieved under the guidance of 4 universally accepted cornerstones that can be practised anywhere in the world, by any dentist: room disinfection, proper anaesthesia, rubber dam, informed consent.
And the truth is, it can completely change your dentist experience:
- It allows for proper disinfection of the entire consultation room (like chairs, door handles and arm rests), instead of just medical equipment.
- Allows more time for both practitioners and patients to ask important questions and feel well informed about the state of their health and their treatment.
- Keeps dentists from missing things like small and discrete cavities, which can become extremely painful and debilitating.
- Avoids mistakes like incorrectly performed fillings which can result in failed restorations that lead to complications.
- Contributes to a painless experience: anaesthesia, for example, takes time to start working. Rushed work means dentists might not wait the time necessary for anaesthesia to take its full effect.
- Helps reduce long waiting times in waiting rooms, with proper time scheduled in for any delays.
- Allots valuable time to soothing any anxiety the patient may have about being at the dentist (especially important with children).
- Keeps doctors more focused on the patient in front of them, helping them prioritise quality over quantity.
Why is quality patient care still getting sacrificed?
It seems to be a societal issue (a natural consequence of capitalism). Doctors tend to be expensive, so patients complain about the cost. This leads doctors into trying to find more affordable ways to provide care (like seeing more patients) – but this always has its shortcomings, no matter how good the intentions are. More patients = less time for proper care.
Cheaper and faster is not always better! In dentistry, it’s actually much worse. Here’s why:
- Getting a problem correctly diagnosed the first time around can keep patient visits to a minimum. You pay per appointment, so it’s always cheaper to pay more and go once or twice than to pay less and go 5 or 6 times.
- Patients can avoid further infections thanks to the correct disinfection of the room and tools, and the correct use of proper protections like rubber dams that take time to set up, but are crucial for patient safety.
How to find a Slow Dentistry clinic?
How can you find a dentist that practices Slow Dentistry, and that still fits your budget? Mainly by being observant. Not every clinic with great practices will actively call themselves advocates of “Slow Dentistry”, but there are a few ways you can discover yourself:
- Try to figure out how many patients the clinic sees per chair/per hour. That should give you a good idea of how fast or slow they work.
- See how much time passes between the last patient leaving the consultation room, and you going in. If you’re immediately called in, there’s a good chance disinfection wasn’t done properly.
- Consider how your questions are answered. Does the staff take their time or do they seem to be rushing you?
- Ask yourself: could the location of this dentist be inflating the price? Central clinics tend to be more expensive than smaller, more local ones. Taking public transportation to the next smaller town might be a good idea to help reduce costs.
- Watch your dentist’s body language. Are they relaxed and engaged, or stressed, distant and rushing?
- Find out if they are a Slow Dentistry clinic – the members of this Global Network have an accredited certificate and have made a genuine commitment to uphold the 4 Slow Dentistry cornerstones and practise gold standard oral healthcare.
- If they’re not a member yet, why not tell your dentist about Slow Dentistry, and invite them to find out more on www.slowdentistryglobalnetwork.org. As a patient, you’re entitled to fight for your rights. And you’re also entitled to inspire your own dentist to make the change!
Slow Dentistry also helps dentists save money in the long run: if you have the time for proper disinfection, consent, evaluations, exams, consultations, surgeries… you reduce the risk of malpractice and have a detailed and informed patient file to prove it. If you have more time to talk to your patients, you also get more background information that could be vital to your diagnosis. All in all, slowing down means breathing easy and less stress for everyone.