By Heide Brandes
Copyright © 2020 The Journal Record
After seven years of being in dental practice, Stillwater-based dentist Russell Brorsen noticed a conflict of interest that he says affects not only patient trust but also dental businesses in general.
Many times, the same dentist who diagnoses a condition will be the one who performs the procedures to correct that condition. But, much like the complaints about vehicle mechanics, most patients do not know whether or not the diagnosis is actually correct or if they are being urged to undergo a procedure that may not be necessary.
“I would notice that a lot of people very clearly didn’t believe what I was saying. If I said they needed a root canal, they would go somewhere else to have another person take a look,” Brorsen said. “People would also come to my office saying ‘Hey, I have questions. Do I need this work?’ Over time I’ve seen that happen repeatedly. I’m trying to come up with a better way to solve that problem. We are the experts, but we’re also the ones who benefit the most financially from finding these problems. So we do have a conflict of interest.”
In response, Brorsen created a new online platform, Dental Double Check, which connects patients with dentists for second opinions through an online portal for residents of Oklahoma.
Dentists and associates are the only people who can diagnose any disease in the mouth, but they are the same people who stand to profit from the treatment. This has left dental patients with questions in a helpless situation, where the only option was to go to another office and hope for a different result.
In many cases, dentists can lose patients that way as well.
“If you tell a patient something that they don’t necessarily agree with and they want a second opinion, then they would have to leave your office and go somewhere else. And once a patient leaves your office, they typically don’t come back,” Brorsen said.
“If they can get a second opinion through this Dental Double Check portal, they are likely to stay in your office.”
According to reviews by Cochrane Oral Health, which reviews and produces synthesized health research evidence, most of the available evidence they researched does not confirm the benefits of dental intervention or the prescribed procedures simply don’t have enough research to confirm the necessity one way or another. In many cases, dentists can prescribe procedures or treatments without any oversight at all.
According to the FDI World Dental Federation, oral disease affects 3.9 billion people worldwide, with untreated tooth decay impacting almost half of the world’s population. Oral conditions are also the fourth most expensive to treat. In the United States alone, $110 billion is spent yearly on oral health care.
And while oral treatments are necessary for overall health, some conditions may be misdiagnosed or simply prescribed without supporting evidence.
“We realized years ago that there was a huge discrepancy in the diagnosis of disease within the dental field,” Brorsen said. “There were no checks and balances for patients to verify the proposed care. Add to that the hurdles with access to care, and the patient was really at a disadvantage. Dental Double Check resets that balance of power in favor of the patient.”
In fact, more and more research and studies show that dental practices can be ripe for unnecessary procedures due to a lack of self-evaluation, among other issues.
Dental Double Check works through an interactive online portal that is HIPAA-secure. Patients enter their dentist’s information and Dental Double Check will obtain the X-rays. A licensed dentist from Oklahoma examines and interprets the radiographs, producing a clear and easy-to-understand report based on the findings of the X-rays.
“As it stands now, there’s no one looking over my shoulder. Dentists just don’t have the natural checks and balances of other medical professions,” Brorsen said. “This gives patients the ability to get a second opinion without having to go to another dentist’s office. It’s designed to create checks and balances.”
Dental Double Check provides online second opinions on dental X-rays. Since Dental Double Check does not perform any work other than reviewing the X-rays, users can be sure that there is no conflict of interest in the diagnosis of their teeth, Brorsen said. Through the website, www.dentaldoublecheck.com, the expert opinions to patient questions are given within 48 hours.
Dental Double Check is providing service to all residents of Oklahoma for a $50 fee.
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