While visiting the dentist can be uncomfortable, it is important that our patients are well-informed when choosing a provider. Ahead of World Patient Safety Day on Sept.17, we want to raise awareness about an issue that many may not have heard of: dental quacking.
Medical quackery is defined as the act of practicing medicine based on false facts. Quackery in multiple medical fields has been practiced starting from the Middle Ages, peaking in the Renaissance. Charlatans — individuals taking an interest in science and spewing medical terminology to gain popularity — were booming. During this time period, individuals who participated in quackery were not arrested, despite the poor treatment of their patients due to a 1645 physician law, according to an article in the Journal of the California Dental Association.
Today, quackery is usually present in rural areas of countries or places where there is lack of access to effective treatments, as well as a lack of awareness and financial means among patients. According to a January 2015 study, many patients who visit the dentist cannot afford it because they do not have insurance or the income to support it. In many parts of rural India, for example, a large part of the population falls below the poverty line, so citizens tend to look for cheaper options when seeking medical and dental treatment, a 2017 study reports.
Lack of awareness and illiteracy also play a significant role in why quackery in dentistry is still happening today. The 2017 study says that quacks prey on individuals who lack the knowledge and caution of what quackery is and how dangerous it potentially can be to the public. These “providers” draw people to their practices with the help of the inaccurate knowledge they spew to their unsuspecting patients, promising to solve their needs.
However, there is a solution to prevent such things from happening to our patients, and that is education. We need to raise awareness of what dental quacking is, how big a danger it can be to our patients and how to look for signs to identify one. The News Minute reports that the first thing all patients should do is check the qualifications of their dental providers and look for red flags, such as the “provider” insisting on pushing medications instead of running tests.
We need to teach the public to not be afraid to ask medical professionals about their treatment plan because, at the end of the day, if they know what to do, they shouldn’t have a problem explaining it to you. Knowing when and where dental quacks can pop up and how to avoid them is crucial to the safety of our patients.
~Keerthana Vella, University of South Florida ‘23