What 5 dentists would change about dentistry

The influence of insurance companies is one aspect of dentistry that needs to be improved for dentists to continue to provide care to patients, according to four dentists. 

Five dentists recently shared with Becker's the things they would change about the dental industry if they could. 

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Harold Mendelson, DDS. Mendelson Family Dentistry (Owings Mills, Md.): The ever-increasing power of the insurance industry over the individual dentist. This is both the low fees and the constant having to argue about denials by the insurance companies of medically necessary dental procedures. There needs to be input by organized dentistry to protect the dentist with dental consultants not paid by the insurance companies being the ones who determine the medical necessity of a certain procedure.

Joseph Oleske III, DMD. Ocean Dental Expressions (Lakewood, N.J.): I'd change the tendency to speak of the dental industry without consideration of the dentist-patient relationship. Each member of the dental industry should be focused on a single question: How can I help the patient have a better experience? A practice can have well-trained and motivated staff, beautiful decor, fantastic management, the latest equipment, an efficient supply chain and concierge customer service in the central business office, but without a healthy dentist-patient relationship, there is no dental industry. Interestingly, the converse is not true. The focus of the dental industry belongs squarely on the dentist-patient relationship, equipping our dentists to provide competent and compassionate care and the very best patient experience. The DSO I am involved with, Simply Beautiful Smiles, seeks out dentists that want professional growth and opportunity in an environment of like-minded colleagues. When the dentist-patient relationship aspect of the dental industry is nurtured, the business of dentistry thrives.

Charles D. Schlesinger, DDS. Comfortable Dentistry 4U (Albuquerque, N.M.): Dental insurance. Unlike medicine where you get it if you need it, dental insurance dictates what treatment will be done (indirectly) due to limitations on coverage and low benefit levels to patients. 

Brett Silverman, DDS. Advanced Cosmetic and Family Dentistry (Alpharetta, Ga.): I would get rid of the outside influences. Insurance and sales people. There is so much good in dentistry. We can get you out of pain, make you smile, make you feel better about yourself [and] fix/replace your smile. We can do so much. Now we are regulated on what is allowed by non-dental professionals by what is written in a contract, not what will help this person. There are people on the other side of those teeth, not a statistic nor a graph, but a living, breathing person. Let's go back to the way it was: a caring doctor and team taking care of ladies and gentlemen. Let's put them first, not the bottom line of some corporation. 

Jennifer You, DMD. Lumos Dental (New Haven, Conn.): It would be the fact that there is no mechanism to hold insurance companies accountable to their subscribers or the dentists that care for their subscribers. Currently, insurance companies are able to increase premiums for their subscribers while simultaneously decreasing reimbursement fees to provider dentists, all without accountability of where the money goes. They are classified as nonprofit entities and yet they are allowed to collect "profits" in the tens of millions of dollars year after year. I truly believe if there was a mechanism, similar to a medical-loss ratio, so that the public can transparently see where revenues are going, it would help hold insurance companies accountable to the people they are supposed to help and support.

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