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How to deal with Dr. Google in a dental practice

When people have a question, the first place many look for an answer is Google. Whether they’re searching for a top rated French restaurant nearby or they’re wondering which day of the week Christmas falls on next year, Google is sure to have the answer. Unfortunately, diagnosing health issues isn’t as simple as finding a restaurant or scanning a calendar.

Unlike receptionists, proofreaders and couriers who are expected to be replaced by artificial intelligence in the future, a computer will never replace a dentist. That’s one of the reasons dentistry is such a good career option for the future. Regrettably, some people don’t see it that way.

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Why self-diagnosing is a bad idea

Before making a dental appointment, most people Google their symptoms in an effort to self-diagnose so they’re aware of what’s to come when they settle down in the dentist chair. And while a little curiosity isn’t a dangerous thing, thinking you know better than the dentist is.

Here are just a few reasons self-diagnosing any medical condition is a very bad idea and should be avoided.

Anyone can create a website

A dentist is a licensed professional who has spent years studying dentistry and even more years directly treating patients. They’ve absorbed vast quantities of knowledge and have the experience necessary to correctly diagnose you.

Absolutely anyone can create a website online. You don’t need to prove you have medical qualifications, experience or expertise to launch your own dentistry website. You just need internet access. This means you have no idea who the person who created the website you’re reading is. It’s unlikely they’re a dental professional. Most information-only websites are created to generate revenue and if someone can convince you to click on a link so they earn money, they will. 

The internet can’t see you

Dental professionals are able to examine you in person and take into consideration various factors which may affect your diagnosis. If it’s your regular dentist, they’ve got access to your dental records and will already be familiar with your oral health.

Even the most innovative, advanced website can’t actually see you or take a look inside your mouth. You can’t have a conversation with the computer and accurately describe your pain or problem. All you can do is read information on your own and interpret it the best you can.

It can cause unnecessary panic

Not only are dentists trained in dentistry, but they’re also skilled in talking to people. When they diagnose you, a dentist is able to calmly explain your problem and help you come to terms with it. Dentists can also advise you about various treatment options and highlight the one they recommend.  

One of the primary reasons diagnosing yourself with Dr. Google is that it can cause you to panic for no reason at all. If you type in a symptom as simple as “toothache”, you’ll get all kinds of results ranging from totally innocent to scarily serious. Without a qualified dentist to do the diagnosis, you can easily think you’ve got something much worse than you have and cause yourself some wildly unnecessary panic. 

You can make things worse

A dentist always has your best health interests at heart. They’ll take various elements into consideration before diagnosing you and will then recommend the best treatment available. If, for any reason, you’re not comfortable with the treatment options, they’ll recommend several alternatives.

When you use Dr. Google instead of a real dentist, you run the risk of incorrectly self-diagnosing and then administering the wrong treatment. You could think you’ve got something much milder than you have, not do anything about it and make your condition significantly worse. Or you could get your diagnosis wrong and treat yourself with medication which doesn’t solve the problem and harms your body. 

Dr. Google from a patient perspective

It’s perfectly reasonable to Google your symptoms as a starting point. It’s a great way to find out whether you’ve got a medical issue which requires a visit to the dentist or whether you’ve got a minor problem which will solve itself in time. But it’s important to remember you’re not a dental professional. No matter how much information you read, you’ll never be able to interpret it from a professional perspective.

Regardless of how confident you are in your self-diagnosis, it’s important you enter the dental practice with an open mind and listen to what the dentist has to say. After all, you’re paying a lot of money to be there — you should listen!

Try and see the situation from the viewpoint of the dentist. How would you feel if a patient walked into your office, totally disregarded the years of education and experience you’ve built up over your career and told you they had diagnosed themselves?

If you’re not happy with the diagnosis your dentist gives you, consider getting a second opinion. Not from Dr. Google, but from another dental professional. This way you’ll be able to put your mind at rest and know you’re in good hands. 

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How to deal with Dr. Google as a dental professional

There’s no way around it, some of your patients are always going to walk into your dental practice after having diagnosed themselves. There’s nothing you can do to stop patients doing something they’ve already done. But you can help patients understand why Googling symptoms and thinking they know more than the dentist is a bad idea.

Here are some tips on how to deal with Dr. Google when you’re a dental professional:

  • Remain calm. Being able to stay calm under stressful situations is a hugely important trait for dental professionals. Most of your patients don’t mean to undermine you or your profession by self-diagnosing. Many think they’re helping by telling you what they’ve learnt online. It’s important you remain calm and genuinely listen to what they have to say. If your patients think you don’t even listen to them, the situation isn’t going to progress as well as it could.
  • Explain why self-diagnosing is a bad idea. Use the points above to coolly explain why relying on Dr. Google is a bad idea for your patient’s health.
  • Support their decision to visit the dentist. Explain that they’ve made the right decision by coming to the dentist and explain how your qualifications will help you solve their health problems
  • Involve them in the process. When you’re examining the patient, tell them what you’re looking for, what you’re finding and how that determines the diagnosis. Doing this will help them feel involved and less likely to criticize.
  • Offer a second opinion. If the patient still isn’t happy with your diagnosis, offer them a second opinion. If you use Cloud Dentistry to staff your practice with multiple dentists, you can ask the patient to return on another day when another dentist is working.

For a patient, Dr. Google is a great starting point in determining whether or not there’s a health problem that needs addressing. However, it shouldn’t be used in place of an actual dentist who can take care of you and give you proper treatment. No matter how annoying it is to deal with patients who are confident they know just as much, if not more than, a dental professional, it’s important you react calmly and don’t take it personally. It’s your job to explain why self-diagnosing with Dr. Google is a bad idea and that going to the dentist is a much better solution.