So, what is a “fact”?

Build your relationships first….then your dentistry. ~ Bob Barkley

So, what is a “fact”?

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Consider the possibility that a lot of the things you think of as “facts” today, will in time be disproved or significantly modified. Now consider that your perception of the truth is really just a personal mental construction, based on your limited knowledge and experiences which were influenced by your biases and motivated by many of your subconscious agendas.

Both of these considerations are commonly held truths within the psychological community today – that some “facts” and some “truths” are really just evolving concepts instead of unchanging and fixed reference points of knowledge. Much of this thinking is based on the landmark work of Swiss Psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980), who studied how children assimilate knowledge, develop “knowledge structures”, and how those knowledge structures can change over time. Piaget called minor changes to these structures “assimilation’s” and major changes – paradigm shifts really – as “accommodations.”

And we all do this over our entire life.

So, that means our patients do it too.

Most of our patients come to us with very little understanding of what dentistry is about and what it can do for them. On top of that, they have fears and biases. And then on top of that, they have external influencers like spouses, parents, insurance companies, and television ads implying to them that if they have all of their teeth extracted and “new teeth” put in the very same day, they will be happier and look better – forever.

Considering all of this, we have a complicated job on our hands IF we want to truly practice patient-centered dentistry. And this of course, isn’t new news either, as it was exactly what L.D. Pankey meant when he said, “Know yourself” and “Know your patient.”

If our true goal is to “treat the whole person” – meaning effects AND causes, then we have to better understand how our patients think AND why. Because it is how they think which drives their decisions and behavior, and their decisions and behavior drive their health status and attitude towards it.

Jean Piaget taught us that the only real “facts” are associated with how people learn – because it is a primal process and is built into our very biology and physiology.

So, are you paying attention to what your patients know, how they know it, how they feel about what they know, and even whether or not what they know is helpful or hurtful to them over time?

You should be, because it is the only way to practice truly health-centered dentistry, and better understanding all of that will never happen during a ten minute new patient exam in your hygiene room, it will only happen through Codiscovery.

Paul A. Henny, DDS

Thought Experiments LLC, ©2018


(Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is a comprehensive theory about the nature and development of human intelligence, and is invaluable to anyone who is interested in facilitating growth and change in others)

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