Take Charge of Your Dental Health: Get Second Opinions!

Posted on July 25, 2012


Good dental health care is an absolute must.  An unhealthy mouth can be painful and reduce your quality of life, can lead to other infections in the body, and even to death.  So we dutifully see our dentists once or twice a year, get cleanings and exams, and probably submit to other prescribed treatments.

Well, cleanings and exams are one thing, but just like with any other doctor, consider getting second opinions when expensive, invasive treatments are prescribed.  This is a subject near to Lila’s heart.  As a young child, we had a particular dentist for three years. Let’s call him Dr. Y.  We saw him every six months, and it seemed that on every single visit, he would find a cavity or two in my teeth and in my brother’s.  Our filling-riddled baby teeth soon fell out and were replaced by permanent teeth, which also soon sported their own collections of amalgam.  Then Dad got reassigned and for the next two years, we saw a local dentist in a foreign country.  Hmm, no fillings in those years.  Maybe the third-world doctor didn’t know a cavity when he saw one?  But no, because then we were reassigned back to the US, where we saw yet another dentist for the following three years.  Still no cavities!  Hmm.  Finally, Dad retired and moved us back to the town where Dr. Y had his practice.  And, well, we were familiar with him so we ended up back in his chair.  On the very first visit, he told me I had four cavities!  Hmmm!  By this time I was in my teens and told my Dad I wanted a second opinion.  Lo and behold: no cavities!  I continued to see dentists regularly, and for the next 30-odd years – up through today – the only other work I have had was to get my wisdom teeth out.  All of my fillings are Dr. Y’s work, and all date to a narrow three-year period in my life.

To this day I wonder how many of my fillings were necessary.  Other dentists only say that without seeing what the tooth looked like before, they can’t guess whether the fillings might have been fraudulent.  At least they were well done and have held up over the years.

Which brings us to today’s story.  One Dr. Henri Duyzend, a dentist in Shoreline, Washington, is accused of massively over-treating his patients, mainly by giving them unnecessary root canals.  Some of Dr. Duyzend’s patients commented that they didn’t feel pain or anything else wrong with their teeth, but the dentist convinced them that the treatments were necessary.  The patients trusted him, and assumed that the treatments they were getting were well within the bounds of what was normal.

The malpractice – no, really, it’s fraud – was uncovered only when a new dentist bought Duyzend’s practice and was shocked not only by the huge numbers of root canals in huge numbers of patients, but by Duyzend’s shoddy work as well.  So not only were the patients defrauded and unnecessary, invasive, and painful work performed, but their dental health was ruined and now needs even more work to repair the damage.  At least my own Dr. Y did good work, even if I do have my suspicions about the necessity for it in the first place.

So the lesson here is:  always get a second opinion on any invasive, expensive medical treatment.  Even if that medical treatment comes from the dentist.