Thursday, March 09, 2017

Whistleblower claims Dental Authority used Restrictive Advertising Guidelines to try to Curb Overzealous Cosmetic Training Program

Special Report:

Did a Canadian Dental Authority have serious concerns about a training program that promoted Cosmetic Over-treatment of Patients and look the other way due to a business relationship?

Red Deer, Alberta, Canada- Former dental council member dentist-author Michael Zuk DDS is asking the Health Minister to look into concerns with connections between a harmful 'cosmetic dentist' training program in the USA, a Canadian dental lab and the Alberta dental authority. According to the general dentist, Canadian and American dentists were brainwashed into flying their patients to Las Vegas for irreversible and sometimes harmful cosmetic veneer makeovers where the professionals were unlicensed and unlikely to be covered by malpractice insurance. He claims the local authority looked the other way due to a close business relationship with the primary dental lab that profited from the additional porcelain work. The dentist was contacted by a victim who had complications after aesthetic treatment within this training program sharing that her complaint was ignored by the authority and this inspired him to speak out about the problem. The dental authority retaliated after Zuk published his book Confessions of a Former Cosmetic Dentist in 2010 with fears the truth would ‘harm the reputation of the dental profession.’

The dentist claims the dental authority decided to make an example of one dentist who had been a known attendee of the cosmetic training program in spite of the fact that she did the right thing in recommending a less aggressive treatment alternative of orthodontics instead of ‘instant ortho’ with veneers. The known risk of more aggressive crown/veneer preparations to straighten teeth is root canal complications, and when this occurred after the patient refused traditional orthodontics, the dental authority had the opportunity to indirectly address the concern. Dr. Zuk suggests the dental authority should known patients have the right to accept treatment alternatives with higher risks after they have been provided with the choices. No treatment is without risks and even orthodontics can result in damage to teeth so a exhaustive war against one ‘cosmetic dentist’ was unwarranted and an honest discussion within and outside the profession should have been made. 

A second indirect action against the wave of cosmetic dental mania was against the use of the term ‘cosmetic dentist’ and office trade names containing the words ‘cosmetic dentistry’. Another dentist was selected to be disciplined for this concern, which is usually considered a practice preference or area of interest and not professional misconduct. Again the dentist was found guilty and suspended.

The third attack related to cosmetic dentistry was against Dr. Zuk’s book claiming the authority did not protect the public from over-treatment and his promotion of a more conservative cosmetic treatment called ‘shorter term orthodontics’. The dentist was found guilty of professional misconduct and the complaint director who was also suing the dentist for $3M for criticism of her performance recommended a suspension of 5 years and costs of $270,000 even though no patient complaint was involved. While the council and appeal committee reduce the actual term to 12 months and approximately $176,000 CAN this was still an amount that would lead the author to appeal to the court system.

The problem with sponsored training courses was not isolated to the dental profession, and as an example physicians realized their treatment recommendations were affected by educational programs backed by certain pharmaceutical companies. Bias is a common problem with programs and research that supports the information may be tainted by financial interests. Besides cosmetic dentistry, most dental services are affected in some way by the promotions of the products and services within the dental industry including lasers and less exotic gizmos that may or may not make treatment safer, more affordable, faster or better.

So to summarize, the dental authority had a concern with a particular cosmetic training program, then suspended a dentist whose patient had a few non-life-threatening complications that were known to be relatively common with the treatment provided, then suspended a dentist who named his practice a ‘cosmetic’ dental office and then suspended a dentist who wrote about problems with cosmetic dentistry and promoted less aggressive alternatives that are used across the globe. The authority had published an internal document written by Dr. Gordon Christensen titled ‘I Have Had Enough’ which profiles the US prosthodontists concerns about the cosmetic dentistry becoming ‘a monster, promoting irreversible treatment on patients’ but the dental authority refused to admit that the public interest was more important than the integrity of the profession. 

In his latest e-book ‘The Ugly Truth about Cosmetic Dentistry’ currently available at no cost through a link on the website, Dr. Zuk shares the connection between the dental authority and the suspect dental training program which, according to a malpractice lawyer in San Francisco and an expert witness, was associated with numerous cases of gross over-treatment of unsuspecting dental patients.

The dentist claims dental authorities had misgivings about this specific cosmetic training program but did not take any steps to warn the public, and this according to Dr. Zuk, has been confirmed in writing by a former high level executive from the dental authority. “Instead of taking this problem public, the dental authority addressed the concerns about aggressive promotion of veneer treatment with an elaborate mess of advertising guidelines that banned dentists from discussing the courses attended, use of the terms like ‘smile makeover’ and forbidding dentists from using before & after photos of dental treatment. The authority was clearly were more worried about harming the relationship with the dental lab owner who they awarded with an honorary membership in the dental association than they were with the harm caused to dental patients. The financial support of this large Canadian lab allowed the training program to reach out to dentists and patients across North America. While many patients were likely pleased with their new smiles, many could have been treated with less expensive and less risky alternatives with comparable results. Many cosmetic dentists are not treating patients with bleaching, bonding and braces rather than veneers. Veneer treatment can be the best or worst treatment choice, but the training program at the time was pushing porcelain as a cure-all and many patients were harmed physically and financially in the process,” says Zuk.

The outspoken dentist who appeared on an investigative television program CBC Marketplace- Money Where Your Mouth Is -where a 15 year-old girl was told by a different dental professional that she needed most of her health teeth ‘capped’ due to some sensitivity that was later treated successfully by Dr. Zuk with Sensodyne toothpastes. Zuk notified the provincial Health Minister and the Competition Bureau of Canada with numerous concerns with about the dental authority’s mismanagement, excessive advertising regulation that limits competition and lack of whistleblower protection. Dr. Zuk is planning a documentary on the subject and is interviewing patients who were flown to Las Vegas for cosmetic dental treatment during the 1990’s and dentists who attended the program and now regret some of the treatment that was promoted.

For more information contact Dr. Michael Zuk directly at 403-347-8008.