Specialist Dental Group has launched an on-going series of blog posts by our individual dental specialists. All views provided are the dentist’s own opinions and are posted on this blog as part of our on-going efforts to educate the public about dental issues and other matters of interest relating to dentistry and healthcare.

winner loserLast week, I received a phone call from a fellow dental colleague, who is also a good friend. Usually such phone calls involve playful banter and pleasant conversations. However, this phone call involved a serious issue which we both would not have liked to handle if given a choice.

A patient had received complex restorative dentistry treatment by a fellow dental surgeon but had issues with the outcome. This patient had  then lodged a complaint with the Singapore Dental Association and my colleague, being on the committee for handling such complaint cases, sought my assistance.

I am the President of the Prosthodontic Society (Singapore), the dental specialty society which represents dental specialists (prosthodontists) trained in oral and maxillofacial restoration and rehabilitation. My colleague reckoned that I could assist by examining the patient myself and providing an expert opinion or, assigning a senior prosthodontist to take on this case. Even though I had handled such complain cases before,  I decided to seek out a more senior colleague.

There was a tinge of sadness when I read through the documents pertaining to the case. We are faced with an unhappy patient, who instead of being an advocate of dentistry, would now lose confidence in dentists.

On the other hand, no practicing dentist can claim to be problem free in his or her career. All clinicians realize that even with the most meticulous execution of treatment with the best available equipment, complications may still surface. I will never forget the treatment planning sessions which I had undergone as a specialist-in-training. Every individualized treatment plan that was presented was systematically subjected to scrutiny and challenge, long before the treatment plan would be accepted. With this same rigor, my colleagues and I routinely cross-reference with one another and brainstorm patient cases on a regular basis. Still, we face complications.

We therefore recognize that since every patient is unique, not everyone is expected to respond to treatment ideally. What is most important is to identify potential issues ahead of time, carry out the treatment plan with the best precautions possible while ensuring that the patient is informed of, and consents to the risks inherent in the procedure, and be prepared to rectify any complications that may arise.

I pondered hard over the weekend as I shortlisted a few senior prosthodontists to take on this case. I finally found an ideal person who was willing to perform the duties required. I handed over the case with a heavy heart.

In my mind, NOBODY wins here. No matter the ultimate outcome, EVERYBODY loses.

Dr. Elvin Leong 

Dr Elvin Leong is a Prosthodontist with Specialist Dental Group. He is currently the President of the Prosthodontics Society (Singapore)  and has published in scientific journals in Singapore and internationally. He has a special interest in crowns, implants and cosmetic dentistry. For more information on Dr Leong, click here.

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