Choosing Dr. Right

The past decade has brought dramatic advances in the esthetic sciences that few can ignore, especially with the media's constant coverage of the topic.

Turn a page or change a channel and you're likely to see an ad for a process or product that promises external beauty. The focus is on everything from creams to surgeries and reality shows that we are led to believe, can change lives as well as faces and bodies.

BUYER BEWARE

The decision to pursue an esthetic treatment is a tough one and shouldn't be decided quickly or without forethought. And choosing a doctor can be even tougher.

It's little wonder that the news is filled with stories and patients being harmed by sub-par  health "professionals." Even more astonishing is that sometimes the offerer is not even licensed to practice a medical or dental specialty. Unfortunately for patients, fake credentials are not that difficult to come by.

To make matters worse, few websites are monitored for accuracy by governing boards. This leaves the detective work to other practitioners and consumers to report what they believe are dishonest claims. But identifying potential problems can be extremely difficult for anyone when a physician or dentist presents misleading or fraudulent information.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Start by doing your homework. Research is the key to success and is a vital component in the selection process. If you're considering a plastic surgeon, start by confirming that he or she is board-certified.

Dr. Farzad Nahai, an Atlanta-based plastic surgeon, says online information is important, but should be used with caution. "The Internet is replete with mostly good, but some poor information. The surgeon's own website is a good start but is only part of the picture. As you read and learn, beware of slick advertisements that appear to ignore risks and guarantee results. Since there is no board certification for cosmetic dentistry, for example, judge experience buy evidence of success.

DON'T HESITATE TO ASK!

Learn all you can about the practice before you call for a consultation. Questions are a patient's best friend. Suggests Dr. Nahai, "A patient should ask how often the surgeon performs a particular procedure, what the alternatives are to the procedure, as well as the risks to the procedure. It is also important to know how long the recovery is expected to be."

Among other questions Dr. Maloney recommends: "What complications have you seen with this procedure?" "Do you have hospital privileges for these procedures?" and "What is your policy if things do not go as expected?" He also advises inquiring if the doctor has ever been sued for malpractice or has any cases pending.

"This should be considered an interview process. There is a certain amount of homework each patient must do; it ensures confidence with one's choice."

Don't hesitate to seek consulations with physicians and dentists until you find the best match, keeping in mind that both science and artistry will definitely play roles in a successful outcome. Dr. Chu considers second opinions helpful, but not always necessary and warns that "more than two opinions is often confusing." Dr. Nahai grees, "If a patient really hits it off with the first surgeon they meet and are comfortable, then perhaps one consult is enough. Having said that, a second opinion can provide a patient with more options and perhaps clarify further any previously made recommendations."

THESE QUALITIES REALLY COUNT

What qualities should you look for in your cosmetic dentist or plastic surgeon? Dr. Chu summarizes them like this: "Knowledgeable, sincerity, honesty and integrity." For Dr. Maloney, clinical competence should provide the first level of selection. He also points to consistency, compassion and passion for the work.

Since cosmetic surgery is both an art and a science, there still remains the possibility that your esthetic results will not meet your expectations.  "Even with properly performed surgery, revisions may be necessary," according to Dr. Jarmuz. In such cases, those interviewed for this article agree that one should return to the doctor who performed the procedure. Clearly explain your concerns, and come to an agreement on a plan for correction.

When it comes to esthetics, the artistic skills, clinical training and years of experience of the practictioner should be major determinants in your selection. After all, there's a great deal at stake and you deserve nothing but the best results.