You may have seen this article in the news about a patient who had all of his teeth pulled out without his consent during a dental procedure. Quite a few of the comments were questioning how could a patient have his teeth removed and not know they were being removed and really questioning the patient, and the fact that his teeth were probably in poor condition, or why would the dentist remove them. Other people really were furious with the dentist, some even wanting his demise.
I will share my thoughts with you from a dentists perspective, though, with no direct information about this particular situation. Great communication is the key factor when it comes to working with your health care providers. I guess the most important thing that I want to share is that it is very important to ensure that you are as informed as possible when you undergo treatment, and that if you are not able to, always make sure that you have a representative who understands. A great relationship between you and any healthcare provider, can prevent alot of mis-understanding and upset.
The article stated that the patient was autistic, therefore, it would have been very important that he had someone with him who could help him understand the intended treatment. It is important to make sure that when you go to any health care situation, if at all there are any questions, that someone who is truly able to advocate on behalf of the patient is there to ensure the best possible outcome. The article also stated that he was given a pill prior to initiating treatment. On may occasions, we sedate the patient prior to treatment if they are very apprehensive. If the patient was sedated, then he was not able to consent to dental treatment during the procedure. He would have therefore been unable to tell the dentist what he would need or want. The young man had to have 3 teeth removed, which means that there were possibly other teeth that were in poor shape only. The parent had some reason to state that she only wanted 3 teeth removed. It is possible as well that there were some financial concerns which may be why she only wanted certain work done.
Many times we as dentists, and other healthcare practitioners make decisions for our patients based upon what we feel are there financial limitations (we try and diagnose their pocketbooks). See, I would like to believe that this dentist, maybe saw the young man's mouth in disarray, and felt that it may have been more cost effective to remove all of his teeth at the same time, while under sedation, thinking that he is helping cut costs for the patient in the long run. Oftentimes, we feel that they might not be able to afford it, and let's just get the other bad ones out before it starts to hurt them down the road. That is just a limiting backwards way of thinking, though the dentist is feeling that he or she is trying to help.
I think that the teeth are so valuable! You only get one set as an adult, and you must find every means of saving the teeth, try every option possible. Never, make a decision for the patient, though you may THINK you are trying to do what is in the patient's best interest. Always think, if it was your mother, brother, or sister, where finances for dental care would not be in question, what would you do for them? Get into really good communication with the patient and their concerned relatives and come up with a plan that everyone can agree to; and, think, what can we do to help the patient keep their teeth for a lifetime, if possible.
Dr Donna Williams
Dr. Williams began her career in the field of dentistry at Howard University and graduated from Baltimore College Dental Surgery/University of Maryland. She is one of a select group of general dentists who have completed a fellowship in Holistic dentistry, and is also certified to use the only FDA approved laser for periodontal surgery. She is passionate about improving the health status of people throughout the community and beyond. Contact her at: Morningside Dental Care.