™ Newsletter Archive – TWD – 035

News From The Wealthy Dentist #35: March 7, 2007


by Jim Du Molin

Sexism and Dentistry

Dentistry has long been a male-dominated field, but – like so many other fields – that’s changing more and more by the day. In fact, The Wealthy Dentist was recently criticized for asking
why men cheat; one woman replied, “Why do women cheat?  It never ceases to amaze me how male-centered/egotistical the field of dentistry is. By the way, it’s the 21st century.”

Indeed it is the 21st century! These days, nearly half of dental school students are women. Even in 1962, only 1.2% of working dentists were female. Women were often considered “too weak” or “too emotional” to be dentists – because, of course, dentistry takes massive arm muscles and nerves of steel! It wasn’t until the 1970’s that women were truly welcomed into dental schools.

Some women are drawn to dentistry because of the possibility of a flexible schedule, especially when they have young children. Others point out that women’s smaller hands can allow for more precision when working in patients’
mouths. Some even feel that women, typically perceived as more sympathetic and nurturing than men, can make their patients feel more comfortable and less anxious – especially male patients who may feel pressured to act “tough” in
front of a male dentist.

In fact, a new website – – was recently launched for female dentists and dental professionals. The site
joins other media aimed specifically at female dental professionals, like the Woman Dentist Journal or, a site that lets patients search for a female dentist near them.

Of course, there’s a corollary to the question “Why are so many dentists men?” Sexism is a subtle beast, difficult to track. But visit many dental practices, and you’ll find yourself wondering, “Why are so many dental hygienists female?”

Jim Du Molin

Survey: Dental Ethics

In our most recent survey, we asked: What do you do when you see a patient who’s had terrible work done by another dentist?

Our survey results suggest professional courtesy overrides other concerns – but unfortunately, it’s not clear if that’s based on doctors’ ethical standards or if it’s actually based on fear of lawyers and possible legal repercussions.

Less than one-third of our respondents said, “Your primary obligation is to your patient. If their previous dental work was bad, they deserve to know, and it’s your job to tell them.” The majority said, “You keep your mouth shut out of respect to your dental colleagues. You don’t know the whole story, and it’s not ethical to bash another doctor’s work.”

The more urban the dentist, the more likely they were to keep quiet. Presumably, urban dentists (and, to a lesser extent, suburban dentists) are more sensitive to the possible legal issues that could arise from criticizing another doctor’s work.

The comments we received highlight doctors’ various concerns

  • “Walk a mile in the other dentist’s shoes before you judge their work.”
  • “Another option would be to say, ‘I wasn’t there, but it appears that I would
    have done things differently.’ I suggest people in glass houses not throw
  • “Primary obligation is to the patient to tell them if there is a problem.”
  • Or you can check out more
    detailed results.

Homeless Maryland Boy Dies from Untreated Dental Infection

The death of a homeless boy in Maryland from a tooth infection has stunned the
US dental community. Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver had an abscessed molar;
left untreated, the infection spread to his brain and killed him. The tragedy
has led to renewed calls for better dental care for the poor, particularly
improving access to care for children living in poverty.

Driver’s mother claims she tried hard to find dental care for him. The family’s
Medicaid coverage had lapsed, allegedly because enrollment paperwork was sent to
the wrong address. The children were covered only through the state plan. Alyce Driver claims that, even with state coverage, it was nearly impossible to find dental care for her children.

In January, Alyce Driver took Deamonte to the hospital for a severe headache. At that point doctors discovered it was the result of a severely infected molar. The infection had by then spread to his brain. Doctors operated twice, and
Deamonte had spent several weeks in rehabilitation at the time of his death.

Deamonte’s younger brother, DaShawn, had been complaining of toothaches. Last November he finally saw an oral surgeon, and the 10-year-old was diagnosed with 6 abscessed teeth. Because of problems with the family’s Medicaid coverage, only two of DaShawn’s bad teeth have been extracted.

Though Maryland has approximately 5,500 dentists, less than 1,000 of them accept Medicaid. In addition, statistics show that less than a third of the children in Maryland’s Medicaid program receive dental treatment in any given year. What’s more, Maryland is hardly alone in this problem – in fact, Maryland’s actually doing better than neighboring Virginia and Washington DC.

Excessive Tooth Whitening Leading to Toilet-Bowl Teeth

Bright white teeth are one of today’s most sought-after fashion accessories. And adults aren’t the only ones looking to add extra wattage to their smiles. The Chicago Dental Society reports that tooth whitening is becoming increasingly
popular for teens, children, and even toddlers, with over 75% of the dentists surveyed having received requests – even though dentists generally recommend waiting until at least age 16 before whitening.

Teenagers are particularly likely to become self-conscious about the color of their teeth because of media exposure. Younger children are more likely to be pushed into tooth-whitening by overly concerned parents.

Over-bleaching can easily lead to “toilet-bowl teeth” that are suspiciously white. Other problems include sensitivity, irritation, damaged tooth enamel, and “skim milk teeth” that are translucent or discolored. Moreover, no long-term
studies have been done on the toxicity of over-whitening, particularly among teens and children.


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