Risky Business

The Dangers of Using Itinerant Dentists “Traveling Dentist”

It’s not unusual for dental patients to need treatment beyond the scope of practice offered by a general dentist. A general dentist does many things but are not typically specialized in oral surgery, periodontics or endodontics (root canals). When a  patient needs specialized care, dental offices usually refer the patient to another office for their dental disease. Lately, there has been a movement toward bringing the specialists to the office so the patient does not have to leave. These specialists are called itinerant or traveling dentists. At first blush, this might seem like a great convenience to patients. However, there are some significant disadvantages that may not be in the best interest of the patient.

Over time, dentistry has implemented many types of governing forces to address the problem of varying standards of care and ideologies. Practitioners are expected to complete a prescribed course of training, obtain a state license, and maintain membership in peer-based organizations to help regulate continuous training and communal ethical standards. There are many regulations, no false advertising, no bribing of patients and definitely no fee-sharing!

Fee-sharing is when a dentist refers a patient to another dentist or dental specialist for money. Itinerant dentists or traveling dental specialists, are often involved in fee-sharing arrangements with the general practitioners who bring them into their offices. Thus, the resident dentist has a financial motive to refer patients to the itinerant specialist despite the dental condition of the patient.

The itinerant or traveling dentist may also be cause for a safety concern. Unlike a specialist’s office, which are always set up to perform their regular or typical procedures, a general practitioner’s office may not be fully equipped with the same instruments, materials and safety measures.  If an emergency were to occur, the outcome could be quite complicated. I think it is safer to go to an office outfitted appropriately for that specialty with properly trained staff  then have a  dentist working out of a suitcase.

And because a traveling dentist is not attached to the general dentist’s office, what happens to the long term care of that patient? Depending on their arrangement with the dental office, they may return periodically to the area or not at all, leaving patients to their own devices. This is particularly problematic if the patient experiences any complications immediately after their procedure, such as infection or bleeding. The patient may be forced to seek follow-up care from a another specialist, one at a disadvantage because they have not been involved in the patient’s care from the start.

Point being, please mindful of dental offices that employ traveling dental specialists. Although the convenience of a one-stop dental shop sounds great, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. For one we don’t know if money is being exchanged for your referral and two, there is nothing like going to a specialist’s office where they can treat the patient in a setting that makes sense for their condition. The work environment is tailored to both the doctor and patients needs which is so important when it comes to healthcare and safety.

 

Do-it-Yourself Dental Aligners

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I have many patients who are currently correcting their misaligned teeth or are interested in correcting their misaligned teeth. They want straighter teeth for aesthetics mostly, but when teeth are straight, they are easier to keep clean and help optimize facial structure and chewing habits. As a hygienist I completely support orthodontic work for all […]

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The Dangers of Using Itinerant Dentists “Traveling Dentist”

It’s not unusual for dental patients to need treatment beyond the scope of practice offered by a general dentist. A general dentist does many things but are not typically specialized in oral surgery, periodontics or endodontics (root canals). When a  patient needs specialized care, dental offices usually refer the patient to another office for their dental disease. Lately, […]

Read More