A number of Utah oral and maxillofacial surgeons have begun a dentistry turf war with a fellow dentist, Heath Hendrickson, over the extraction of wisdom teeth. The surgeons have sponsored a website (trooth.com) and a billboard on I-15 in Utah County, Utah (I will endeavor to get a photo of the billboard tomorrow).
Dr. Hendrickson is a licensed, undisciplined Utah dentist who extracts wisdom teeth.
There seems to be more to the story.
Here is Dr. Hendrickson’s website at DrWisdomTeeth.com:
Do the oral surgeons resent the fact that as a general dentist, Dr. Hendrickson is invading their lucrative turf of extracting wisdom teeth – and at a reduced fee to boot?
Or, is there a public safety concern?
Yet, the Utah Board that regulates dentistry has never disciplined Dr. Hendrickson.
Why an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Should Manage Your Wisdom Teeth
Dentists learn to remove teeth in dental school the same way physicians learn how to cast a broken bone in medical school. However as with broken bones, the difficulty, complexity and risk of the procedure varies; often requiring specialty training in order to provide the most effective, safe, and comfortable treatment.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are dental specialists who receive 4 to 6 years of additional medical and surgical training beyond dental school in order to specialize in surgical procedures related to teeth, jaw, and face and to administer general anesthesia. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons focus on:
- Wisdom tooth removal
- Complicated tooth removal
- Dental implants
- Reconstructive jaw surgery
- Facial skeletal reconstruction
- Management of impacted teeth
- TMJ disorders
- Facial trauma
- Facial cosmetic surgery
- Oral and maxillofacial pathology (diseases of the mouth, face and jaws)
- Sleep apnea
- General anesthesia
Dentists may perform any treatment they believe necessary that falls within scope of the state’s dental practice act, including tooth removal. Many dentists are able to perform straightforward tooth removal without difficulty. However, occasions may arise when removal of an impacted or erupted tooth is difficult or complicated. It is in the patient’s best interest to have these procedures performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon with proper training, as this ensures the best outcome for the patient.
If a dentist without appropriate training performs difficult or complicated tooth removal, patients may have increased risk of infection, dry socket, nerve injury, a lengthy and unpleasant procedure, and possibly additional surgery needed to produce complete healing. (Some dental practices limit their procedures to tooth removal only and patients may not be aware that the practitioner is not a formally trained oral and maxillofacial surgeon. The Utah Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons understands “Wisdom Teeth Only” and “Simply Wisdomteeth” to be examples of this type of practice.) If complications occur during tooth removal, the patient is often referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. In such cases, the patient has often experienced considerable stress and discomfort that likely would have been avoided if a properly trained oral and maxillofacial surgeon had been consulted originally. In most cases, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can perform complicated or difficult tooth removal in a few minutes. A properly trained oral and maxillofacial surgeon typically can provide an anesthetic and remove four impacted wisdom teeth in 30 minutes or less.
I will try to interview some of the parties involved during the next few days.
I have a feeling this turf war is going to get uglier.