In response to Clark Howard’s opinion on dentists and mid-level providers, he’s dead wrong or could be. And he doesn’t understand the sector of patients who do and don’t seek to have proper oral health care. If Mr. Howard had a heart-attack today, price of care would be the last thing on his mind. Would he negotiate before they installed the stint or after? His perspective is steeped in ignorance. The answer is not as Mr. Howard would suggest, devoting energy and time and money to creating a lesser trained dental provider to deliver a poor approximation of comprehensive dental care (in Georgia).  This opinion comes from the lack of understanding of what a dentist is trained to do. Clark Howard is living back in the 20’s, the 1820’s, where the only thing a dentist did was pull teeth and cut hair.
A recent example in our office was the discovery of suspicious cells on the underside of the patient’s tongue. Ultimately (and hopefully), our discovery and recommendation will save this patients life. Our early detection of cancer comes from years of (university) training and experience that transcends the old view of what a dentist does for that 15 minute examination during your regularly scheduled hygiene appointment. Contrary to your physician’s health care, the cost of delivering dentistry is under constant pressures from the free market system and yet when adjusted for inflation the cost of delivering dentistry is the same cost it was in 1982.
The answer to providing adequate and broad based oral health care lies in educating patients about the value of good oral health, who can best deliver the care, and how consumers can obtain and maintain that care. Marred by an old view of dentists and dentistry, Mr. Howard is stuck in a mindset that all dentists do is just drill-and-fill. There is much more to the art and science of dentistry than Clark Howard is remotely aware.
Our society needs to understand the need to regularly maintain their oral health and that dental care for them and their families is not optional. We need to instill in our society the need to maintain an oral health care regimen and visiting the dentist is a part of that regimen. I find it interesting that Clark Howard wants to put you in a position where you bargain for your health care needs. Where he fails in his advice is to differentiate between oral health care and retail dentistry.
With regards to the specific point of creating mid-level providers as has happened in Alaska, census data demonstrates that 43% of our “public” health care providers aren’t busy because patients don’t show up for their appointments. This is not a lack of dentists, rather a lack of utilization of the care available. While there is no empirical evidence as to ‘why’, one would speculate it is because like Clark Howard, a large portion of the public fail to value the real benefits to oral health care. Take a credible, but uninformed spokesperson like Clark Howard, and the notion that all dentists do is drill-and-fill and we, as providers are starting 10 yards behind the starting line.
The real solution is better patient education.
If we can answer your questions or you have comments, please feel free to weigh in on this matter.
Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA 30328
 This isn’t to suggest that we as a discipline of health care aren’t competitive. The free market system has kept dentistry fairly moderate in terms of cost compared to the annual leaps in insurance coverage and physician/hospital care.