Beyond the fact that many people are nervous about going to the dentist, all of us are aware that placing ourselves in the care of a dentist puts us in a vulnerable position. As with many professionals whose care we seek, we require trustworthiness as well as competence. This article is designed to guide patients who are checking out a new dental office to see if it is suitable for their needs or re-evaluating their own dentist in terms of recent doubts or concerns. Unfortunately, dental negligence and malpractice are not uncommon. If you find yourself dissatisfied with treatment, taken advantage of financially, or faced with a serious medical complication after a dental procedure, you should get in touch with an experienced personal injury attorney who specializes in dental malpractice to discuss your situation.
Warning Signals that Something Is Amiss
A panel of dentists has agreed that the following should make you question the professionalism of a dental practice:
The office doesn’t request your old dental records
The dentist should be interested in tracking problems you’ve had in the past and should, therefore, be requesting your previous records, especially X-rays. The dentist should also ask about when you last had X-rays to avoid exposing you to unnecessary radiation. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that healthy patients only have a full set of X-rays once every 2 years.
There is a lack of modern equipment or emphasis on high tech equipment rather than quality care
Though a modern dental office should certainly be using digital X-ray technology by now, “cone-beam” and 3-D images do not represent an improvement and will expose your mouth to 18 times as much radiation.
There is a lack of emphasis on hygiene
You have a right to demand the ultimate in sanitary conditions at your dentist’s office, including fresh gloves for each procedure and heat sterilization of all tools that will enter your mouth.
The dentist does not screen for oral cancer
At every checkup, at least every 6 months, your dentist should check your gums, upper palate, inner
cheeks, tongue, lips, and lymph nodes for signs of cancer.
Your new dentist recommends extensive work
If you have been seeing a dentist regularly and a new dentist says you need major, expensive work, your suspicions should be aroused. Remember that just because the recommended work is covered by your insurance, that doesn’t mean it is necessary. A second opinion from a dentist affiliated with a dental school should be your line of first defense.
The dental office does flashy or excessive advertising
It is best not to consider dentists who advertise excessively, sending discount offers in the mail or having eye-catching posters on the bus. Not only does such advertising lack dignity and professionalism; it may indicate that their practice is flagging, perhaps because of unfavorable patient reviews.
They don’t have samples of their work
If a dentist is recommending that you have an orthodontic or other transformative procedure, he or she should be able to show you images of his or her work to reassure you about his or her successful experience.
The dentist recommends removing amalgam fillings because they’re “toxic.”
According to the FDA, old fillings should only be removed and replaced if they have corroded and created entryways for bacteria. The mercury used in old fillings that is supposedly dangerous, is actually more problematic when it is drilled into and releases vapors.
The dentist is eager to peddle caps or crowns
Today it is often possible to mold a composite or bond a restoration to an affected tooth instead of capping it. Conservative approaches like these are not only less expensive but preserve more of your original tooth.
The practice uses dental products made in other countries
You don’t want any needed implants, bridges or orthodontic appliances coming from labs that may be cheaper but less reliable than those in the United States. You should ask which labs the dental practice uses and where they are located.
They run a boutique of dental products or offer non-dental procedures
In general, it is not a good sign if a dentist is selling vitamins or dietary supplements, claiming such products will improve your dental health. You should also steer clear of dentists who perform non-dental procedures, such as injecting BOTOX® or dermal fillers.