Dental Care Tip for Young Adults: Get a Second Opinion When Something Seems Odd

Warning: What I’m about to report may be offensive to dentists or other health care workers in Utah and elsewhere. Let me first state that Utah has many great dentists, and I think that most dentists, LDS or otherwise, are decent and honorable. In fact, all the ones I currently know in Wisconsin and out West are ones that I think are honest are trustworthy. But there may be some disturbing exceptions. . . .

Tonight I had two people in my home tell me about how they had a puzzling diagnosis from dentists in Provo, Utah. One, when she was a young married student at BYU years ago, had a Provo dentist tell her that she had 10 cavities suddenly show up, allegedly due to the biochemical changes associated with pregnancy. She was skeptical, got a second opinion, and found that she had no cavities.

Another, a recent BYU grad, visited a dentist and had the hygienist tell her that she had a “disgusting mouth” with about 10 cavities, after which the dentist told her she had at least 8 and needed a lot of work. She was puzzled because she just had a check up six months before and had been practicing outstanding dental hygiene. He said there were marks showing that she had just had her braces off and these were related to early cavities. She resisted and explained that it had been 10 years since her braces were off, after which the dentist backed down and said she didn’t need work after all. After coming to Wisconsin, dentists praised her for having such great teeth – and no cavities.

My stomach sank as I heard these stories, for I had a similar experience in Provo – with less wisdom on my part.

After returning from my mission, I went to a trusted family dentist in Salt Lake who gave me a clean bill of dental health. No problems at all. But in Provo, a little over a year later, I saw a dentist who told me news that shocked me. My mouth was heavily decayed with 22 cavities! It would require a lot of work – a lot of expensive work that would take up a lot of what I was earning. I hadn’t been diligent enough in flossing, I suppose, but I couldn’t imagine how I could have developed so many cavities. The dentist, knowing I was a recently returned missionary, said this happens frequently to returned missionaries. Two years of inadequate dental care can catch up with you quickly, and perhaps the problems that had been building up were still too small for the Salt Lake dentist to have noticed. Changes in food and other habits can all contribute, blah blah blah. Well, who was I to question the authority of a skilled dentist?

Note to self: thank goodness I’ve been questioning authority a whole lot more in recent years. Keep it up. (I can hear the critical guffaws here. But don’t assume that because I’m a defender of the LDS faith that I believe in blind obedience and that I merrily go along with whatever anybody says in the Church or elsewhere. Details aren’t for this blog. But it’s possible to respect and honor authority while challenging apparent errors of judgment – and I can attest to the fact that church leaders are fallible, especially based on my personal experience as a bishop, for example. Trust me, I’ve stirred up more than my fair share of trouble, some of which was immature over-reaction on my part, and some of which was not.)

As a gullible returned missionary in Zion’s shielded outpost of Provo, I trusted and paid through the nose for the work in my mouth. For many years I’ve have been embarrassed over how many cavities I had filled – over 20! – and wondered how I could have been so stupid as to have let my teeth go so bad so quickly so shortly after my mission. And now tonight, I felt even more stupid. Perhaps my teeth were fine. Perhaps I was exploited. I hope not, but it’s possible. How stupid to not get a second opinion. Maybe my mouth was somebody’s gift horse.

When you get a medical or dental opinion that doesn’t seem right, do the drill of getting a second opinion. Question authority. You can’t undo a filling or most other procedures.

(Ditto for tattoos. Get a second opinion before you add something that you regret decades later. Here’s a good second opinion: don’t.)


Author: Jeff Lindsay

10 thoughts on “Dental Care Tip for Young Adults: Get a Second Opinion When Something Seems Odd

  1. I had a similar experience with a government-employed dentist at a federally-supported college.

    I resisted having x-rays, and after I gave in and got the x-rays, surprise, surprise, they showed a cavity. If always wondered if that was legit or not.

  2. I hope the two people you recently talked to filed a report with the dental board or whoever oversees such cases back.

  3. We used to have 2 dentists in our ward. One pushed for having alot of work done, the other was more reasonable. The pushy one was recently charged with defrauding Medicare and Medicaide. He admitted to wanting to get the most money possible out of patients rather than giving them the best possible care. Unfortunately he fell into the trap that many small businessmen do, wanting to maximize profits at the expense of ethics.

  4. Some time ago, the Reader’s Digest published a story about a fellow who tested the ethics of dentists in America. First, he had a dental evaluation done by a team of professors at a dental college. Then he traveled across the United States visiting dentists to see what they would recommend to him as a “new patient.” The diagnoses varied widely both in terms of recommendations and costs. Only two dentists of the many he saw recommended the few, minor treatments that the professors did. One of them happened to be in Provo, as I recall.

  5. I am a muslim Dentist moving to Utah to be with my husband. my comment regarding the story above is that every profession has its bad apples, so pick your apples!!
    I googled and found this website to understand why is there no Dentist positions open in utah? does the Morman faith have any religous stipulations against treatment by non Mormans?
    we decided to move to utah because we thought the culture most closely resemble our own… we enjoyed many Morman friends in other states in the US and thought that we would like for our children to grow in this culture.. seems like we have alot of understanding to do.

  6. To Anonymous:
    We do not have any regulations or stipulations of whom we visit in any capacity. I honestly cannot tell you if my dentist is LDS or not. As a matter of fact, at one point I could have told you that I only know for sure that my mechanic was LDS and that was because he was in my ward.
    The main reason I can see for someone to choose a practitioner of any kind because of religion, is just to see someone who has similar values.

  7. I had more than one dentist work on my family. Two of my children are young adults. We are a poverty level family receiving assistance from Medicaid. One dentist was fired for giving my daughter beautiful white front teeth because Medicaid doesn’t pay for those. The next dentist was squeezed out of the business for putting beautiful white fillings in my daughter’s mouth because Medicaid does not pay for those.The dental business that employed these wonderful fellows kept their names on the door, and wouldn’t give out their forwarding information to their loyal patients.
    The next dentist did not personally examine my children, but wanted my toddler in surgery badly enough to threaten me if I didn’t show up. I cancelled the surgery and took my baby somewhere else, then the dental business followed through on their threat to call Child Services for child abuse, and to bill me for cancelling. They are still billing me. They intend to put a mark against my credit. Watch out for many dentists, dental assistants, and dental office workers. They are definitely wanting whatever money they can get out of you, and they are collecting information to use against you if you don’t say “Yes” to them.

  8. I am a salt lake dentist. I've had several patients come to me with similar issues. Too many people in this world try to get away with dishonest practices. Good to know, however, that there are still honest people in the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.