I don’t want to belabor the ethics of dentistry, because it is uncomfortable in many ways, but we need to discuss this problem.
The Dental Board of California used to require candidates for licensure in California to take an Ethics Exam. I always thought that was silly.
The only potentially meaningful ethics exam consists of two questions, and two questions only:
- Do you know the difference between right and wrong?
- Which will you choose to do?
Beyond that it’s all nonsense. Everyone knows when taking an ethics exam exactly what answer the graders are looking for – it’s obvious, even to those people that don’t have an ethical bone in their body. So, everyone passes.
For the two questions above, it IS possible that someone will say yes to the first question and indicate they will plan to DO wrong. That, at least is honest – but that is the only way to fail an ethics exam.
Are all dentists ethical? Absolutely not. Are all car salesmen ethical? Certainly not. Are physicians ethical – they MAY be more often.
Why did I just say that? What is the difference between medicine and dentistry that would suggest that more doctors might be ethical?
The issue is that when a doctor makes a mistake, or chooses to do wrong, there is a far greater chance that the patient will DIE. When a dentist makes a mistake or decides to DO wrong, the patient will NOT die (one exception is described in another part of this site – the practitioner asked for my help to get his license back which I refused). The TOOTH may die, or the crown or bridge may fall off prematurely, or the filling will fail because the work was done hurriedly, or you will be paying for a crown that is not needed at all – but YOU will not die.
Since the patient doesn’t die and the overtreatment or the failures are not discovered until years later, if at all, the connection between the actual WORK the dentist did and the failure is not so clear. Maybe the patient just didn’t take good enough care of their teeth.
What CAN we do About Unethical Dentists?
I came to believe many years ago that the only recourse we have is for PATIENTS to be better educated, and not educated by the dentist, but by an independent party. THAT is why I started writing this, and have now developed this site. It is ALL about making sure that an educated public will keep the dental profession honest and ethical, and possibly more attentive to the skills and concern that are brought to the practice.
If you are knowledgeable about cars, you can ask better questions when you buy one. Same thing goes for plumbing, electrical work, orthopedics, and any profession where the training is very specialized. YOU can obtain enough knowledge so you can protect yourself.
You are doing it NOW!