In search of a new dentist

When I first started out in dentistry over 40 years ago, the profession had high ethical standards. We were focused on prophylaxis to prevent the common diseases like tooth decay and periodontitis, and if the damage was done, we offered “damage-control” and restoration of the bite with fillings, crowns, bridges and removable prosthesis.

Advertising was strictly controlled, and only small plain adverts containing name, address and opening hour were permitted an only until one year had elapsed after opening a clinic. Cosmetic dentistry was an “American phenomenon” and was looked down upon as unethical.

Now the table has turned. We are in the phase of marketing driven dentistry. Everybody is competing to get a share of the consumers money, and cosmetic dentistry like bleaching, porcelain veneers or facial fillers seem to dominate the the profession. It is no longer individual dentists who own the clinics and serve the patients. It is a franchise or a hedge fund investing in hundreds of clinics. They obtain good deals when buying material and equipment, and they recruit young unexperienced dentists for their practises – dentists who will accept a minimum salary and bad work conditions in order to avoid unemployment.

In such clinics the treatment plans and quotes are often made by sales staff instead of dentists (unbelievable, but true), and they use all sorts of tricks to make you take the bait. When you have started the treatment they switch plans, and offer you “better” options that cost more than the original quotes, and in the end you may very well have paid more than a reputable and professional clinic would have charged. Clinics that would have included treatment by highly experienced dentists and a totally different standard of dental lab work.

I hope these lines have given you an idea about where to go and which type of clinics to avoid. The old saying “if something seems to good to be true – it probably is” is a good reference point to keep in mind.

If I doubt, get a second opinion before accepting a quote for comprehensive treatment.

If you have been going to the dentist regularly it is not likely that you suddenly “need” 8 fillings and 3 crowns.

It is also important to find a clinic that will be there tomorrow, because continuity is important. I have had many patients over the years who have maintained dubious teeth for 10-15 years. Teeth that initially were not thought to survive for 6 months. To correctly assess such situations you need continuity with a dentist, and not a new dentist every half year.

I am sure there are many brilliant, honest, ethical and responsible dentists around. The vast majority probably, but never forget to use your common sense, and follow your belly-gut. Ask your friends, don’t rely on glamorous adverts in glossy magazines, posh design or glamorous web-pages.

I wish you luck – and if you want your odds to be higher than plain luck, you can check out the colleagues at Dr. Guerrero’s clinic in Rio Real. A dental team I have been collaborated with extensively for many years and who have never let me down, but delivered outstanding results consistently.

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