Ever wondered how it is possible that the dentists who are not practicing dentistry up to the standards get caught only after years of practicing the profession? Well you have come to the right place to find out.
Is It the Patients’ Fault?
Nope. Absolutely not.
The patients cannot tell the difference between a good and bad dentist when it comes to the skills of a dentist. Or if the procedures have been done as they should and if they are necessary in the first place. Or if the instruments entering their mouth have been properly cleaned (take a look at my previous post about this).
An average patient can only judge the dentist by the looks of him and the practice, and by the dentist’s chairside manners. The rest is build on a trust of receiving good and adequate care. But every once in a while this trust is broken and the dentist ends up in the headlines.
But please remember that not all the dentists ending up to the headlines are rogue dentists as I have written previously.
Collegiality Gone Bad
Collegiality between the dentists means respect to one another’s abilities to work towards the same purpose. Helping patients. But collegiality has an ugly side as well. It is an unwritten code between the dentists which means one should not interfere or especially under any circumstances critizise a fellow dentist’s work. It is a code one should not break. The hygienists are expected to play by the same rules.
Now, this creates a problem. When a dentist is underperforming, the colleagues hear this from the hygienists and nurses. They see see it from the teeth of the patients who come too see them instead of their regular dentist (e.g. for emergency visit or whilst the regular dentist is on a holiday). They know there is a problem but very rarely they raise questions.
Instead the patient is kept under an illusion that the regular dentist has made the right decisions by distorting the truth.
“This decay is in such a difficult area to notice.”
“This massive decay is so big that even my half-blind grandmother would find it.”
“Your dentist has marked it as an early decay, something to be kept an eye on… it has now grown bigger and needs a filling.”
“Your dentist needs to have his eyes checked. This decay should have been filled ages ago. If you are lucky enough, you avoid the root canal treatment.”
It should be every dentist’s duty to report problems in colleague’s way of practicing dentistry. The Code of Ethics by ADA state the following:
Dentists should be aware that jurisdictional laws vary in their definitions of abuse and neglect, in their reporting requirements and the extent to which immunity is granted to good faith reporters. The variances may raise potential legal and other risks that should be considered, while keeping in mind the duty to put the welfare of the patient first. Therefore a dentist’s ethical obligation to identify and report suspected cases of abuse and neglect can vary from one jurisdiction to another
In my opinion, you don’t pull out the biggest guns if you suspect negligent behaviour from your colleague. The dentist in question should be given adequate time to correct the problem e.g. by revising.
The privilege of dentists to be accorded professional status rests primarily in the knowledge, skill and experience with which they serve their patients and society. All dentists, therefore, have the obligation of keeping their knowledge and skill current.
If nothing changes, more severe means should take place. This includes giving warnings and as a last resort filing a complaint to the relevant authorities.
Naturally, if the negligence is severe, one should not hesitate to contact authorities urgently.
If you fancy further reading on the subject, here’s a true story by yours truly.