Does the general public regard dentists more or less favorably than it used to?
WELCOME TO “Just Asking,” in which Incisal Edge puts forth a handful of questions—some serious, some less so—to dentists nationwide. Want to play? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add you to the respondent list.
LAST ISSUE, OUR quarterly survey addressed an old chestnut: Why are dentists always portrayed so negatively in works of art and entertainment? readers’ favorite fictional docs were a rogues’ gallery of bumblers, incompetents and paranoids. When was the last time a movie dentist apprehended a bank robber, say, or rescued a kitten from a tree—and then gave that kitten a root canal on the house?
This time around, we’re coming at the question from another angle: in the time you’ve been involved in the industry, we asked, how has the public’s perception of dentists changed? few, alas, were the replies that we could construe, even while squinting hard, as “for the better.”
Even technology’s seemingly ceaseless march into the sunny uplands of better dental health—a trend we celebrate this issue with our coverage of the Edison Awards—hasn’t been enough to shift popular perceptions. in recent years, one respondent observed, “people have become less aware of the amazing technological advances that have made procedures quick and painless.”
Perhaps, others noted, that’s due in part to the more quotidian types of high technology to which all of us have grown so accustomed. “There’s way too much incorrect information high up in Web searches,” one dentist replied, suggesting that patients are perilously misinformed and, in many cases, think they know more about dental health than they in fact do. (We hope you were sitting down for that.)
“I feel we were more respected in the past,” one doctor said. “so much marketing with big promises that can’t be met have eroded trust. Social media has changed how people find a dentist—so those savvy with the technology can attract patients, even though the treatment might be substandard.”
Changes in the provision of care, many of them driven by insurance companies and their strictures, have bore unripe fruit, too. “Dental services are viewed more and more as a commodity,” one respondent lamented. “There’s less value placed on the traditional doctor-patient relationship.” said another: “Loyalty has been removed, driven by network provisions.”
About the most positive take on offer, such as it was, is that overall patient perceptions are simply idling in neutral. “It’s been about the same for 30 years,” one dentist said. “people still need to get the oral-systemic connection for better overall health.”
Such fatalism was a common trope. how has the public’s perception of dentists changed, exactly? sighed one respondent: “I don’t know if it has.” Clearly, the industry still has a lot of PR work ahead.