Dentistry is in need of a homecoming, 1 payer exec says

Dental professionals need to begin viewing dentistry as a health profession again over a cosmetic service, according to Franklin Woo, DDS. 

Dr. Woo is the dental director of Blue Shield of California who has more than 40 years of experience in government-based dentistry. 

He recently spoke with Becker's about the change he would make to the dental industry.

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

Question: If you could change one thing about the dental industry, what would you change and why?

Dr. Franklin Woo: If there is one thing I could change in the dental industry, it would be the return among its practitioners in viewing the profession as a "health profession" rather than a cosmetic service akin to the nail shops located in shopping malls. Dentistry needs to return to its foundations as an equal partner with medicine viewing the individual holistically in the provision of health services. This current perspective and emphasis on "cosmetics" in the profession has permeated into the mind of consumers who now often view the profession as providers of cosmetic veneers, making their teeth "whiter and brighter," or to make their teeth "straighter" and "prettier." 

In my current position with a health insurance company, I review grievances from patients who "just saw" a dentist and had cosmetic veneers placed on their teeth. Often their complaint is they do not like the "color" of the veneer. Upon review of the radiographs, I often can see severe undiagnosed periodontal issues, radiolucency at the apices of teeth and large carious lesions, but the veneers appeared to be well done. 

This is but one example of many grievances I review daily. It seems almost comical to me that dentistry has drifted away from its foundation as a health profession to a supplier of veneers and cosmetic services (at least in the mind of consumers). To conclude, one thing I could change about the profession is a return to viewing the profession, among its practitioners, as a health profession first and foremost and not simply a supplier of cosmetic services to make "prettier smiles."

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