Dollars and Dentists

Last Tuesday, June 26, Channel 13’s Frontline devoted the entire hour to a segment called “Dollars and Dentists.”  See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/dollars-and-dentists/.  The program is an excellent discussion of the problems confronting the public today.  Too many Americans cannot afford dental care and have no dental insurance.  They thus neglect their dental health until decay and gum disease are severe enough that they end up in the hospital emergency room.  There the treatment is only palliative and extraodinarily expensive to the public.  The investigative reporter visited several dental “clinics” reporting to treat the needy.  What he found was a lack of integrity – unnecessary and inferior dentistry being performed, and patients being taken advantage of financially.  These large clinics are often owned by private equity firms whose bottom line is profit and where quality plays no role.  My own experience confirms what Frontline explored.  Over the years I have too often seen patients who were told that they had cavities whereas I could find no decay at all.

Dentistry is a profession, and professionals need to act in the best interests of their patients.  Private equity should have no role in dental care.

This week the New York Times also addressed dental care.  This time it was about tourist medicine – people travelling abroad to get cheaper treatment – whether cosmetic surgery or crowns.  The article focused on a state in Mexico which  is gearing up for medical tourism, making it easy for people to book accommodations and surgery.  Don’t do it!!!!  Aftercare is crucial in dental procedures as well as proper treatment planning and sequencing.  Don’t give up on a personal relationship with your dentist.  Don’t look for a bargain.  Your teeth and well-being are too important.

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