From 1992 to 2003 I was not allowed to choose my dentist. I was told what dental office to use and what dentist to see. No, I was not a child at the time. No, I was not living in a communist country. And no, I was not in a federal or state prison. During those years, I was a member of the United States Air Force. Choice was not an option for us military folk.
In 2003, I left the air force and jumped back into the civilian world. I was now a free man, but…this free man now had no dentist. And I needed to find one. As the great economist Milton Friedman is famous for saying, I was “free to choose!”
I was living in the New Bedford, Massachusetts area at the time and there were plenty of dentists to choose from. But the question was, how do I find a good one, but most importantly, how do I avoid a bad one? I basically didn’t know anything about dentistry at the time.
I did what most people probably do. I just asked around. My mom seemed to like her dentist, so…I guess I’ll just pick him. And that’s what I did, but was it the right decision? I don’t know.
I guess I could have done more research like:
- Check their online reviews?
- Check the State Dental Board for possible complaints?
- Browse their websites?
- Check to see if they belong to professional organizations?
- Visit their offices before making an appointment?
That kind of stuff will help a little, but here’s the main problem when assessing quality in dentistry. A lot of what happens in dentistry (and in every other profession), cannot be verified by an outsider (a.k.a. a non-dental person).
Yes, there are some aspects of quality that an outsider can verify like:
- Are my teeth whiter?
- Does that white filling on my front tooth look good?
- Was my experience pain free?
But there are many, important aspects of quality that an outsider cannot verify like:
- Did my white filling last 7 years instead of 12 because my dentist didn’t isolate the tooth well?
- Is my tooth now sensitive because my dentist drilled deeper than necessary?
- Are my gums 80% better after a deep cleaning instead of 98% better because the deep cleaning was less than thorough?
The difference between assessing dentistry from the outsider’s perspective and the insider’s perspective is night and day.
My conversion from outsider to insider began in 2005—the year I started dental hygiene school. By 2008, I had become a licensed dental hygienist with one year of experience under my belt. During that year, I worked for a small dental practice in Fall River, Massachusetts and also temped at many dental offices throughout southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Temping, in particular, gave me the opportunity to see what was really out there, quality wise, early in my career.
Also in 2008, I got married to a dental hygienist and made the move to Taunton, Massachusetts. With that move, I was back in the position of needing to find a new dentist. But this time, as an insider!
From 2007 to 2008, my wife and I (both hygienists now) would often discuss our workdays. We would get into everything, including our assessments of the dentists we worked for. My wife worked for (and still works for) Dr. Mark Turner. Before I even met Dr. Turner, I felt I already knew him as a dentist through the many discussions I had with my wife. So with that insider knowledge in my pocket, and a great first visit, I choose Dr. Turner to be my new dentist.
Even though I’ve never worked for Dr. Turner, I have worked with him. In 2011, I volunteered with him and his church group on a dental mission to Honduras. That trip did not reveal anything new. It only verified what I already believed him to be—a caring, ethical, highly skilled and hard working dentist.
I chose Dr. Turner in 2008 and he is still my dentist in 2020.
If you’re an “outsider” currently looking for a dentist in the Taunton area, feel free to use me as your personal “insider”. Dr. Mark Turner is not only a cool guy, but he also the kind of guy who is “insider approved”. Isn’t that the kind of dentist we’re all looking for?
Authored by Mark Frias, RDH