Are Dentists Ethical or Scam Artists?

Recently The Journal of the American Dental Association has been running some “Ethical Moments” regarding dentists. This is purely propaganda and should not be taken at face value.

For example Jeffrey C. Esterburg wrote an article titled Are Dentists Losing Their Status as Professionals? (J Am Dent Assoc, 2011; 142, 1084-1085).

He opens up the article saying

“As a new dentist, I am becoming increasingly concerned that what it means to be a dental professional is being lost in the eyes of the public and our vendors and consultants.”

He goes on to discuss some conflicting pressures he is faced with running his dental practice. He then goes on to discuss the American Dental Association Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct.

He closes the article by saying

“The size of our hearts defines our success much more than does the size of our practices, homes or bank accounts. That is what sets us apart from the trades. Go ahead and tell anyone you wish.”

In another article by  Rod B. Wentworth titled “What are the Ethical Issues I Need to Consider When Developing Marketing Strategies for My Practice” ( J Am Dent Assoc, 2011; 142; 966-967)

He ends the article by saying

“Marketing is an important part of all business interactions with the public. In our profession, we provide care based on the trust our patients place in us. They expect us to be truthful and put their health ahead of our bottom line. As long as we market our services in an honest manner that maintains that trust, we will continue to meet our professional responsibility.”

Looking around at some postings on the internet tell a different story

For example over at Glock Talk is a post titled Dentists are scam artists

One person says in response to “I hope your wife can enjoy dentistry for a long time, too.”

“Nah. She’s busy employing high-pressure sales tactics to perform unnecessary expensive procedures on people with perfect teeth so she can pay for her fancy office, nice car and retire early.”

Another comment

Many dentists I’ve met are no better than car mechanics who bilk old ladies. The difference is that we are all old ladies when it comes to dental knowledge.”

Another example over at Bogleheads in an article titled Dental scams you have known and loved

“When I told my dentist of 20 years that I was retiring, and would no longer have dental insurance, she suddenly recommended a flurry of various kinds of fillings/treatments, etc.  Oddly, she never suggested any extra work prior to that conversation. I always had a clean bill of health.  And the dental hygienist took me aside one day, and told me privately that it was unnecessary to have full-mouth x-rays twice a year (which they insisted I do, when I was insured.) He said having one routine x-ray every two years was more than adequate. “

In another comment

“My aunt is a dentist and she tells me they are very aggressive with sales. They have a lot of tuition to pay back after dental school and they make a lot less than doctors while having almost the same student loan burdens after graduation.”

In another thread over on City-Data titled Know an Honest Dentist

One of the comments

“It seems like a lot of the dentists in the valley are all about money and encourage procedures when none are needed. A lot of them have glamorous offices with elaborate fish tanks that cost in the thousands. It seems like a racket much like going to a shady auto mechanic.”

Over at a blog in a post titled Scam artists AKA Dentists Kristen says:

“So basically a lot of dentists are SCAM ARTISTS if you ask me. I mean how in the world would a regular person really have any clue what they need. Thats why we go to the dentist and trust them to do their jobs! Geeeezzz…. what has the world come too?

I have no desire to be called a ‘consumer’ in the healthcare system. I am a patient and hope my hard earned dollars will be able to give me healthcare when I need it that is of high quality care and based on the latest and best available scientific evidence.

I don’t have any time nor desire to screw around with anything less so I really hope medical professionals are ethical when I see them.

Clearly there are honorable dentists in practice but finding which one to trust can be difficult for patients.  See for example the article titled “Wanted: An Honest Dentist”

The problem becomes when you see different dentists is they can you give very different recommendations. So how does one reasonably determine if the dentist tends to undertreat or tends to overtreat or somewhere in between?

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