My apologies for starting off the year with a bit of a downer.
But I think it’s important for us to look at some of our challenges last year as a profession so that we may be vigilant in the year to come. 2011 was, like most years, full of ups and downs for dentistry. But here are three of the news items that gave me the greatest concern:
(3) Pew Study on Access to Care Problem is Faulty
The Pew Center is an independent research facility that seeks to inform policy through its surveys and studies. In a well-intentioned examination of the access to care problem facing the United States, Pew reached several conclusions that alarmed the dental profession.
Notable troublesome judgements included the belief that dentists are mainly motivated by finances when treating Medicaid patients and that mid-level providers would greatly help solve the access to care problem.
The ADA took the lead in finding several faults with the assumptions and methodologies of the study. Follow the link below to see a very well-organized list of the Pew errors…
(2) Align Technology Sues Competitors
Should Invisalign be the only clear aligner system on the market? They certainly think so. Ormco, Orthoclear, and ClearCorrect have been sued in the past for various causes, including patent infringement. This year the litigation continued with another round of suits against ClearCorrect (again), Rasteder KFO Spezial-Labor, and OrthoCaps.
Now I’m all for protecting patents. But I don’t think it’s fair for one company to have a monopoly over an entire kind of treatment. Remember last year when Align Technology tried to institute an annual 10 case minimum for dentists using Invisalign? The company eventually caved into pressure from various agencies, including the ADA, and withdrew that requirement, fortunately. But absolute power corrupts, absolutely.
Imagine if there was only one implant company? Or only one company that manufactured composite resin?
(1) FTC Rules in Favor of Mall Whitening
Do you know those tooth whitening businesses that set up their own store at a mall or spa? For those of you who aren’t aware, these stores are selling home-use whitening products to the public. The problem is that they provide a chair, enhancing light, and person wearing a white coat. There are no dentists or hygienists on site, so these white-coated employees cannot apply the whitening material, nor can they even place the light in front of the “patient.” The customer applies everything themselves, just as they would at home. The store charges less than what a dentist would charge for prescription strength whitening agents, but more than what someone could buy in a drug store.
These companies are lying to the public, plain and simple. They scam people by leading them to believe that they are receiving similar care to what we would offer in our offices. They overcharge for home-use whitening kits by creating an allusion of superior care.
The bad news is that the Federal Trade Commission ruled against the North Carolina Dental Board for attempting to prevent these companies from doing business. We have a lot work to do to help protect the public from these deceptive practices.