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Dear Patient: How to know you can trust your dentist

April 4, 2022
Most patients have heard unfortunate stories about unethical dental practices. Amanda Hill, BSDH, RDH, says self-empowerment and collaboration go a long way toward helping them trust dental pros.

You might have seen the news story where a dentist defrauded patients by drilling off tooth cusps and then telling them they needed crowns. I want to assure you this is not representative of all, or even many, of us in the dental industry. And I hate that somehow we only hear the bad stories, which continue to stoke fear and distrust of going to the dentist.

Again, it doesn’t happen often but it might be a legitimate concern. So what can you do to make sure your dentist isn’t one of those who’s making up treatment to increase profits?

Choose wisely

When choosing a dentist, be picky. Not all clinicians are created equal. If you use the list your insurance company gave you or pick the person closest to you, you might be missing out on a better fit for your oral care provider. You might have specific needs, like replacing a missing tooth, and someone well versed in implants would be right for you. Or perhaps you feel strongly about holistic medicine, and a biologic dentist would become your new bestie. Think about your needs and desires, and then find someone who can meet those.

Ask questions

You do not have to agree to a treatment plan just because the dentist said so. As a patient, you have the right—dare I say obligation—to determine if this treatment is right for you. So ask questions. Unfortunately, in dentistry we’re often stuck between wanting to give each patient individualized care and staying on time. So if the team seems rushed, ask if you can come back to schedule a consultation appointment to discuss things further. As long as there’s no active infection, you probably have some time to decide. Maybe even bring a trusted person to help you navigate your best path.

Seeing is believing

Technology has come a long way in dentistry. We went from a tiny film x-ray that we put on a lightbox to see what was happening to digital X-rays we can blow up on a computer screen. We now have cameras that can fit in your mouth to show you what’s going on in real-time and track changes over time. My new favorite is 3-D scanners that can show you what’s happening, what could happen, and what we can do about it. Take advantage of all these tools that can guide you to make wise decisions about your care.

Get a second opinion

If you’re at all unsure about your dentist’s treatment recommendation, get a second opinion. There are lots of options for treating a condition. Maybe someone else has a different expertise. If the two opinions differ, they come from different approaches. This is where you get to ask more questions. Dentistry often has a good, better, best option. Determine what’s right for you.

Become your own oral health advocate. A confident, comprehensive dental team will value this opportunity to help guide you to a treatment that’s right for you. After all, you know you best. We know dentistry best. This should be a collaborative effort.

About the Author

Amanda Hill, BSDH, RDH, CDIPC

Amanda Hill, BSDH, RDH, CDIPC, is an enthusiastic speaker, innovative consultant, and award-winning author who brings over 25 years of clinical dental hygiene and education to dentistry. Recipient of OSAP’s Emerging Infection Control Leader award and an active participant with the advisory board for RDH magazine, DentistryIQ, and OSAP’s Infection Control in Practice Editorial Review Board and membership committee, Amanda (also known as the Waterline Warrior) strives to make topics in dentistry accurate, accessible, and fun. She can be reached at [email protected].