Reader’s Digest Reply: Can You Trust Your Dentist?

Dentophobia (Odontophobia), AKA fear of the dentist and dental procedures, is a phobia for people of all ages. This common fear can be strong enough to create physical reactions such as panic attacks and can also lead to other health related issues. According to a 2018 survey by the American Dental Association (ADA), only 15 percent of Americans rate their overall health of their mouth as ‘excellent’ and only 58% of Americans see their dentist at least one time per year. Is dentophobia the culprit that is keeping us away from our dentist, or is there some other less obvious cause hovering over us?

Your dentist is your oral health partner; you should be able to rely on his or her knowledge, wisdom, and skill to protect your well-being, prevent disease, and to restore your health and your smile. According to Reader’s Digest (RD), in an article titled, Can You Trust Your Dentist, written in 1997 and updated in January, 2021, (illustrated with the image of a tooth wrapped in caution tape), “…dentistry is less science-based and regulated than other fields. Some patients pay the price.” While admitting that the vast majority of dentists are hard-working men and women with the best of intentions, RD is claiming that “…the intimidation of miniature power tools and sharp metal instruments working invisibly in your mouth along with the ‘masked figure’ [looming] over your recumbent body…asking questions to which you have no answer…” sharply augments the “patient/doctor relationship’s imbalance.”

In agreement with one of RD’s claims, the majority of dentists are, in fact, hard- working, honest men and women with the best of intentions. However, regarding the false, exaggerated claims further mentioned, we have penned the following responses:

The practice of all health sciences is both art and science. In science, reproducible results matter. If your doctor or dentist cannot reproduce results, what is the point of seeing any doctor or dentist in particular? It is a fact that within the medical field, a plus b does not always equal c. In complex systems such as our bodies, to try to dumb it down with a desire to simplify us would place us all in a box of generic diagnoses and treatment plans with little regard for the individual.

It is in the best interest of every patient to advocate on their own behalf during any conversation with their doctor or dentist. Honest and caring dentists encourage patients to ask questions and if something does not seem right, a comprehensive, ethical dentist will encourage the patient to seek answers. Reputable dentists encourage second opinions when the patient does not feel comfortable with the current diagnosis.

There are two approaches to the question RD poses regarding diagnoses: “When a dentist declares that there is a problem, that something must be done before it’s too late, who has the courage or expertise to disagree?”

The first approach to this question relating to the doctor/patient relationship and its trust factor, is what is referred to as the desk to patient approach. In this scenario, the patient sits across the desk as the doctor delivers a diagnosis and treatment plan that positions the doctor as the authority. This scenario invariably can feel, to the patient, intimidating.

The second approach to this question relating to the doctor/patient relationship and its trust factor, is what is referred to as the doctor/patient conversational approach. Dr. Matt and his patients are a team. He chooses to sit with the patient in a conversational atmosphere in order to bring a feel of comfortability and partnership to the doctor/patient relationship.

Neither the first approach nor the second should be considered paramount in the goal of the doctor/patient relationship. The bottom line, and where we strongly disagree with RD, is that each patient is an individual. The majority of the patients seen at Randall Family Dentistry smile upon the experienced authority that Dr. Matt offers and simply want to know that the physician they have chosen is an expert in his field. No patient should be forced to feel intimidated at any time by any physician. Patients should feel entirely comfortable with their dentist.

Today’s medical environment has placed health care providers at a disadvantage. The number of patients needing to be seen on a daily basis along with the federal guidelines and the paperwork can create an often too busy environment within the office. At Randall Family Dentistry, we believe each patient deserves to feel at home from the moment they enter our office. They deserve to have their voice heard, and they deserve to have all questions answered in detail prior to any procedure. Dr. Matt is certainly a rare jewel in today’s dental world. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Matt, you can either give us a call at 225-744-2273, text us at 225-744-2273, or message us on Facebook Anytime ~ Seriously

Dr. Matthew Randall