Over the last few months in lectures and articles I have discussed the concept of managing patient expectations about the longevity of restorative dentistry. Multiple times during these conversations a dentist has pointed out that we have coined the phrase “permanent” crown or restoration or filling. What does the use of the word “permanent” communicate to our patients, and is this misleading. These are great points and something worth addressing. I am clear that words are powerful and I pay close attention to their impact. In truth it is not just our patients that are impacted and create beliefs because of the words we use, but our teams and our own behavior.
So maybe we need to remove the word “permanent” from in front of many of the dental procedures we do. For that matter for many years I have tried to remove the word “temporary” as a descriptor in my office. At first I wondered about substituting a different adjective. Then I realized that the names of restorations are not enhanced when we add adjectives. So moving forward the crowns in my office are “ceramic crowns”, “porcelain over metal crowns” or “composite crowns”. Fillings will be described as “ceramic fillings”, “composite fillings” or “gold fillings”. I am clear that teaching myself and the team a new vocabulary will be a daunting task. Perhaps every time one of us uses the words “permanent” or “temporary” we have to put 50 cents in a jar. In no short time we should have enough to buy lunch for the whole office!
I feel a movement coming on.
James R. Heise, DDS, MAGD says
I have never used the word “permanent” with my patients. I use the word(s) “long term”
restoration(s). This way it does not mean their dentistry will last forever or for a short period of time. I tell them nothing lasts forever, not even their natural teeth…that’s why I have a job. I also tell them that with the latest techniques and materials I will do my best to make their dentistry last as long as possible depending on their hygiene, foods they eat, etc., etc, but that the materials we use are “man made” and once again, nothing lasts forever.
Lee– You bring up a great(er) point about the use of words. Language is so important in our ability to communicate. Raisingb the issue should make dentists more aware of their language in every communication.