Why You Shouldn’t Trust Everything Your Dentist Says

While most of the professionals who care for our teeth are reputable and honest, dentistry is less science-based and regulated than other fields, and some patients pay the price for that. When you’re in the dentist’s chair, the power imbalance between practition­er and patient becomes palpable. So, when a dentist declares that there's a problem, that something must be done before it’s too late, who has the courage or expertise to disagree? Unfortunately, dentistry has not yet applied the same level of self-scrutiny as medicine or embraced as sweeping an emphasis on scientific evidence. For example, there are numerous incidents of dentists who have given their patients unnecessary crowns, intending to replace them every five years — the minimum interval of time before insurance companies will cover the procedure again. In addition to performing scores of seemingly unnecessary procedures that could result in chronic pain, medical complications and further operations, these same dentists billed patients for treatments they never administered. About 80% of the nation’s 200,000 active dentists have individual practices, and although they're bound by a code of ethics, they typically don’t have the same level of oversight. Certainly there's a financial incentive. A dentist’s income is entirely dependent on the number and type of procedures he or she performs. All that said, the damage that often can’t be repaired is the patient’s trust, and that’s an unforgivable crime.