Dental case study: Exercising clinical judgement

...the dentist has concerns about the orthodontist's recommended treatment but the patient demands she carries it out...

  • Date: 23 August 2022

Veneer tooth BACKGROUND

Mr K is undergoing orthodontic treatment to correct a class 2, division 1 malocculsion. The orthodontist contacts Mr K’s dental practice asking for removal of a veneer on an upper lateral incisor in order to aid the bonding of orthodontic brackets. The patient’s dentist Dr J believes that the orthodontics could be achieved using a porcelain cement, thus leaving the veneer in situ. Dr J is concerned that removal of this veneer could risk loss of pulp vitality, debonding and a sub-optimal aesthetic outcome.

Dr J offers her opinion to Mr K on the proposed treatment and the patient writes back demanding that the requested treatment be carried out as advised by his orthodontist.

Dr J contacts MDDUS for advice on her response.

ANALYSIS/OUTCOME

The MDDUS adviser writes back suggesting that the matter is fundamentally down to clinical opinion. Should removal of the veneer be contrary to her clinical judgement then Dr J should decline to offer the service irrespective of the patient’s wishes, and the reasoning behind this should be explained in empathetic and professional terms.

However, if Dr J believes that removal of the veneer is a viable though risky option, it could be introduced in the treatment options at the consenting stage. Mr K would need to understand the material risks associated with this procedure, which should be clearly explained and the details of the discussion documented in the clinical notes.

Bearing in mind patient expectations and the complexity of the treatment being undertaken, it may also be worth considering offering the patient a referral to a restorative specialist for this component of the treatment plan.

KEY POINTS

  • No dentist is expected or advised to carry out requested treatment contrary to their clinical judgement.
  • The justification for declining to offer requested treatment should be discussed and recorded in the notes.

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