Blame the dentist or the victim?

Editor's note: Helaine Smith's column, The Mouth Physician, appears regularly on the advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

According to an Associated Press story, "the state attorney general's office has sued three former dental offices in the state whose workers allegedly persuaded low-income patients to get expensive and often unnecessary dental work they could not afford." ( has covered this story as well.)

I had three people tell me that the promo to the evening's local news was about dentists scamming patients.

Of course, I was interested in finding out more. Because I was working -- not scamming patients -- I couldn't see the story on TV and had to search for it online after I had finished with patients.

As a dental professional, I do not defend this action at all. I am sure the charges are serious if the attorney general's office is involved.

However, the sensationalist promo made it seem as if all dental healthcare professionals are crooks. I resent this. And more important, did the dentists being charged hold a gun to these patients' heads and make them take out a loan? Were these people taken advantage of -- in much the same way as those who have lost their homes to foreclosure? Or, are they just as responsible as the dentists?

The local Boston media does not run many stories on advances in dental medicine -- of which there are many. Lord knows I've spent a good few years sending out press releases and other information in the attempt to educate consumers -- only to be met with dead silence.

However, let those who are less fortunate get taken advantage of, and the media is quick to do a story.

Unfortunately, it does behoove consumers to protect themselves. To paraphrase Bill O'Reilly, no one is looking out for you. You have to do it yourself.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2008

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