Berenson Takes A Bite Out of Dentists

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  • 10/11/2007
Why are our teeth rotting? Because dentists are making more money then ever, making teeth cleanings and cavity filling more unaffordable than ever before. That's according to Alex Berenson who wrote another article without stealing documents.

In fact Berenson buries the reason dentist salaries are going up: there is a shortage of dentists and the falling number of schools to replace the one's who will be retiring. Meanwhile the disparity in care between rich and poor is the same old story....Medicaid rates are too low and when dentists do provide care, patients rarely show up. So even if reimbursement rates are bumped up patients don't show and doctors don't get paid. That's something Berenson ignores in his attack on the profession even though the federal government sees it as of tactical importance. Here's a glimpse from a government study about the dental divide...

"A common complaint among dentists concerns patients who do not keep their appointments. Missed appointments cause resentment among dentists because of the office management and financial problems they create. More importantly, the patient does not receive a needed service. The likelihood of a patient keeping a dental appointment is improved with a system of case management that addresses the logistical, cultural and behavioral barriers to dental care. Medicaid can pay for case management as a medical service or as an administrative activity."

I think part of the problem is that people have gotten used to only getting care when it's paid for, not when it is necessary so they shrug off going to the dentist twice a year. Then there is the failure to brush, floss, rinse, etc.

Still Berenson's article does pick up on themes and concerns articulated in the Surgeon General's report on Oral Health in 2000. A public health solution will not work, but a retail or market driven one might. Of course the dental profession is digging it's heels in on not letting hygenists do cleanings and exams on their own. But that won't last long. My prediction: Dentistry will go the way of the retail health clinics. Cleaning, xrays and exams for $60 with evening hours.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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