Should You Trust Your Dentist?

dentistThe horrific news in our area the past several days has been one of a local dentist and oral surgeon who has possibly exposed more than 7000 of his patients to infectious diseases.  (Read more here ~ Dental Practice via N2 Owasso. ) Imagine getting THAT letter in the mail!  The health department opened on Saturday to begin testing these patients.  Folks were lined up, anxious to find out their outcomes.

This man practiced in our town.  This says to me, it could happen anywhere, to anyone.  I struggle wrapping my brain around how a professional could allow this.  My next thought, “I am going to be having a visit with our dentist before my next visit.”  I have shared before about my anxiety issues with the dentist. (Read “Puppy Anxiety“.)  I find my thoughts running wild on how we simply “spin the wheel” in our lives, trusting so-called professionals, health and otherwise, that we really have no reason to trust!

And then as if he read my mind, I received this reassuring e-mail yesterday from our dentist.

“Recently, a Tulsa area dentist was cited with putting patients at risk of infection with hepatitis by failing to follow proper infection control practices. The Oklahoma Dental Association is closely monitoring the situation.

Let me describe just a few of the things that we do in our practice in terms of infection control.

All dental staff involved in patient care scrub their hands before each and every patient and use appropriate protective garb such as gloves, masks, gowns and eye wear.

  • A new set of gloves and masks are used for each patient.
  • Before you enter the examining room, all surfaces, such as the dental chair, instrument tray, dental light, drawer handles and counter-tops, have been cleaned and decontaminated.
  • Non-disposable dental instruments are cleaned and sterilized between patients. In our office we sterilize instruments using ( an autoclave which involves steam under pressure. If you wish, you could offer for us to show you our sterilization or set-up area).
  • Disposable items like needles or gauze are placed in special bags or containers for special, monitored disposal.

There’s no excuse for what this dental office did. It is you right as a patient to ask any healthcare provider to explain their practices to you.

Your well-being is important to me and my staff, which is why we follow stringent infection control procedures and comply with all state regulations for the protection of our patients.”

I’m thinking they must have already received numerous phone calls and cancellations?

But I am sharing this with you friends, as a reminder to both you and I to speak up!  Ask questions!  Be “that person”.  If it offends them, maybe that’s your answer for moving on to a practice that will look out for your well-being.  Obviously, we can never be too careful.  Afterall, our lives are in their hands and perhaps we need to remind them of that.


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43 Responses to Should You Trust Your Dentist?

  1. Natalya says:

    Wow, I’m glad you weren’t one of the unlucky 7000!

  2. That is so horrible for the patients involved with that doctor. I feel really sorry for them.

  3. What a nightmare for all involved, really scary.

  4. yikes, yes we really do not seem to have much choice but to trust health professionals. I trust my dentist though, I lucked out.

  5. Clanmother says:

    My thoughts and prayers go out to these people.

  6. artsifrtsy says:

    Man – that is awful, and irresponsible. I have trust issues with medicos anyway.

  7. I agree; it’s our life and we are responsible for protecting ourselves as much as humanly possible…
    Darn; what a terrible thing to have happened, and yet creeps exist in every walk of life. (A university degree does not give a humane degree along with it…!)

  8. I use an HMO clinic with a large staff and all are impressively professional and competent. The teeth cleaning techs are very good. I have had many cleanings and now they want to do deep cleaning again. Having had both over 50 years now I see no difference except the price. That means the techs always do an above minimal job but seems they crank it up for profit now and then.

    • You bring up a very good point. I have visited with several individuals form 25 yr olds to 70 plus about recent dental visits. It has been suggested to almost all of them that they have the “deep cleaning”. It is more money AND not comfortable. I was actually “scared” into it. Then a different hygenist advised my husband that he would not need this if he switched to using an electric toothbrush. You have certainly nailed it….profits!

  9. krisdw76 says:

    EEK! That’s horrible! It is so hard to trust Drs, dentists and any other medical professionals nowadays. Thanks for sharing, I will be questioning my dentist about their infection control next time my kids or myself see him.

  10. amb says:

    Oh boy, did this make me shudder. Not that the “like” button is really appropriate for how I felt after reading this … but you know what I meant, Paula! Thank you for sharing and for reminding us to stand up for ourselves and be “that person”. I know I will!

  11. Jeannette from the CA coast says:

    We heard about this on the news. We are indeed blessed to have my husband’s sister as our dentist. I know how extremely hygenic she has been in her personal life as well as her dental practice. I would not hesitate to question any professional after this tragedy!!

  12. I’ve been through a malpractice-suit with a dentist in Houston who made a terrible mistake and put me through a year of hell while trying to fix it! My heart goes out to these people…

  13. bulldog says:

    This is a great wake up call to us all… on the eight of April I’m going for a colonoscopy and gastroscopy.. same instrument is used for both ends… asked to swallow it first before the colon exam… (laughter)

  14. This is an excellent post, Paula. It never ceases to amaze me how individuals blindly follow simply because someone has on a ‘white coat.’ Every professional we hire for whatever reason should be thoroughly reviewed from various sources. We as patients have the right to know when the last time a practice was visited by the health department and what, if any corrections had to be made. What’s the date on the various licenses on the wall. Who issued the licenses. The list is long of what an informed consumer needs to know — but it’s our life and the lives of those we love that are at risk.

  15. Rita Kay says:

    I’m so glad you’re ok, I can’t believe that dentist was in your town. I finally found a great dentist but sad to say she’s not in my insurance network, so that means lots of money out of pocket. But with that said, she’s excellent

  16. mimijk says:

    This story just amazed me – how devastating for these people. We trust so blindly sometimes..

  17. i heard about this when my husband called me and asked me the name of our children’s former dentist – he’d passed away, but he’d had the same last name as this fellow. we were very concerned until we learned who he was and that our kids had never seen the dentist in question and they were okay. we then received a similar letter like yours above from our current dentist assuring us that we were being cared for properly. whew! what a relief!

  18. Back when I was 18, I saw a dentist, and I felt as though everything they put in my mouth didn’t have that antiseptic taste that I was accustomed to. Within 48 hours, I had sores all over my gums and a terrible infection in the tooth he worked on. Another dentist had to clean up the mess and put me on antibiotics. Thankfully, I had nothing long lasting or that would stay in my system (like a herpes virus). But that scared me to death of dentists, and I’m sad to say I only go if I’m in pain – and then I shake like a leaf the entire time. I don’t think that will ever go away. Thanks for a good warning, Paula. I may never come across another person like this in my life, but I’ll be asking questions the next time I go.

    • It is sad that we cannot trust all professionals… bad as yours was….I guess you were actually lucky it wasn’t worse. I already had the anxiety and now….ugh! Am already dreading my July visit! 😉

  19. tchistorygal says:

    We do all need to be responsible for our own health, but part of living is trusting. If we have to distrust everyone, our lives are slowed down to a crawl, as the book, The Speed of Trust, enumerates. What this office has done is broken trust, not only with his 7,000 patients, but with anyone who learns about it, and doesn’t get a letter like your dentist has sent. Your dentist is a very smart man, and will not lose many patients because of this sad affair. Trust can be mended, but it takes a lot more time and effort to mend, than this one act spent in breaking it. 🙂

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