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Trust me, I'm a Dentist

Updated on July 25, 2010

Is it gullible of me to wonder if my MP really does need me to pay for thirty Ukrainian beauty queens to drain his family moat before he can continue his work of running the country so brilliantly? Is it possible to be a good politician and a bad crook at the same time? Or do you have to be good at both? And what does this have to do with dentistry?

It’s a matter of trust. In a tough economic climate, people become increasingly sceptical about anything they’re told they need (as opposed to something they want – most of us tend to decide that we want something and then look for reasons to justify spending whatever it takes for us to get it) But need is different. If something doesn’t hurt and isn’t disfiguring, it gets relegated down the priority list. This decision then has to be justified so we won’t feel stupid later on if things go badly. Consequently, anyone who insists that we really should address an inconvenient problem becomes a money-grabbing git.

Of course, sometimes this is exactly what they are. There are plenty of dentists who will look you in the eye as you walk through the door (before they have even glanced in your mouth) and announce that you’ll be dead by Tuesday unless you sell your children and pass the proceeds on to them (okay I’m exaggerating but, unfortunately, not by much)

How can you tell if you’re being ripped off? Getting a second opinion doesn’t necessarily help because there are a lot of grey areas. One clinician will look at a tooth and decide it needs immediate attention, while another clinician may feel it more appropriate to re-examine that tooth in six months before carrying out any treatment. And neither of them is necessarily wrong.

So how can you, the patient, know what to do? Let me tell you, you DO know. Listen to your instincts. If you feel comfortable with the dentist and the staff, they’re probably okay. If , however, there’s a niggling doubt, go somewhere else. You may be doing them an injustice but most people are pretty shrewd most of the time.

No doubt by now you’re cynically wondering what prompted me to write this piece. Has someone questioned my integrity? It’s something more bizarre than that: this morning a patient told me that fluoride (a scientifically proven ‘magic bullet’ for the reduction of tooth decay) is nothing more than ‘an advertising gimmick’. I mentioned this to a colleague who, instead of being surprised, informed me that her mother will not accept that fluoride isn’t a type of mint flavouring.

Ah well.

Stay Healthy

Tom Nolan is a dentist with over 30 years’ experience.

If you found this article useful, you should check out his book

Watch Your Mouth – An Owner’s Manual.

Also available as a download. This book is packed with practical advice and will tell you everything you need to know to keep your mouth healthy, trouble-free and beautiful for the rest of your life.

You can get in touch via Tom's practice: The Dentist in Town.

P.S. The desensitising agents in sensitive formula toothpastes do work if you give them time.

P.P.S. Fluoride is not a flavouring agent


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