Are dentists honest? Finding the right fit for your oral care

September 28, 2011

In 1998, Reader’s Digest published an article that detailed one reporter’s quest to “prove” that dentists in Canada are dishonest. He visited 28 dentists across the country, and asked them simply “What do I need to have done?” Not surprisingly, he got 28 different answers, ranging from suggestions for a simple cleaning to $10K worth of restorative and cosmetic dentistry.

His conclusion? That the dentists who recommended extensive work were only out to make a buck, and did not have his best interests or his oral health in mind.

I disagree, and think that his conclusions were simplistic. Every dentist is different and takes a different approach to oral care. One may be of the opinion that your bridge is fine, while another will recommend replacing it with an implant. The first dentist may have more of an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude, and be fine with the performance of your bridge, if you are. On the other hand, the dentist recommending the implant may be looking at a bigger picture. Over time, the area around a missing tooth loses bone mass. An implant is an excellent long-term solution, but can only be done if you have enough bone in your jaw to perform it. In many cases, there’s no better time than the present to get an optimum result.

So what’s the difference between these two dentists? They’re both ethical, and they care about the long-term health of their patients. Is one more honest than the other? I don’t think so. The difference is simply in approach and personality.

If your dentist recommends a treatment and you refuse, he or she probably won’t push you further. It may be the best available solution, but if it’s out of the question – for financial reasons or otherwise – he or she will recommend an alternative treatment if one is available, along with all the facts that outline why that alternative is a second choice. It’s not about profitability. It’s about the long-term impact on your health and the look of your smile.

However, if you find your dentist is pushing you into something you don’t want, perhaps it’s not the right fit. Find a dentist who is.

Here are my recommendations for getting the care that’s right for you:

  • Ask questions before you get in the chair. Know what you want. Be an informed, educated patient.
  • Find a dentist you like. Don’t settle for someone you’re not comfortable with, or who has a more aggressive or conservative approach than you want.
  • Tell the dentist what your goals are. Do you want to do the bare minimum to keep your mouth healthy? Create a more attractive smile? Ensure you keep your teeth for life?
  • Understand your budget. Know what’s covered by your insurance plan or what kind of payment plan you can carry. Ask for a written estimate and submit it to your insurer to see if they will cover it.

I won’t pretend that dentists aren’t interested in making a profit. A practice is a business – salaries need to be paid, rent or mortgage covered, equipment serviced, and lab fees taken care of. That said, however, dentists as a general rule make recommendations that ARE in a patient’s best interest. The only caveat is that “best interest” may genuinely differ from one professional to another. The key is to find one whose priorities are in line with yours, and will give you the level of care you want.

If you have questions about choosing a dentist, the Reader’s Digest article references here, or anything else in our blog, please feel free to contact us anytime at 905 637-5463 (KIND) or drop us an email at info@desiredsmiles.com . We’d love to hear from you.

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