You remember the FLAP.
Yesterday afternoon, I had the opportunity to speak with David Nicholls, D.D.S., one of the oral and maxillofacial surgeons who comprise the Board of Trooth.Com.
While I characterize this “Public Awareness Campaign” as a Turf War between Utah oral surgeons and general dentist, Heath Hendrickson, D.D.S., Dr. Nicholls takes exception with this terminology. But, more on this later.
I have now reached out and left messages (either via e-mail or web form) with most, if not all, of the oral and maxillofacial surgeons on the Trooth.Com Board. Dr. Nicholls is, so far, the only one, who has contacted me. I welcome the other Board members to contact me for an interview or to comment below, if they wish.
Yesterday, I, also, had e-mail correspondence with Heath Hendrickson, D.D.S.. He told me that he would get back to me today since he was accompanying his wife, who is pregnant with twins to her doctor. She is due this week. I, certainly understand, and wish them both well – as everyone does.
On to the interview, which I will break down into a number of parts:
Who is David W. Nicholls, D.D.S.?
The graphic below is from Dr. Nicholl’s website:
Well, in Utah, there seems to be a growing problem with individuals who are not specialty trained taking on specialty care and they are entitled to do that under the state’s Dental Practice Act. But, the state Dental Practice Act clearly states that if a general dentist is going to provide specialty care and advertise that he is providing specialty care that his advertisements must say that the services are performed by a general dentist. And, supposedly that font of the disclaimer is supposed to be of the same size as the largest font that he uses in his advertisements.
Additionally, the state Dental Practice Act states that a general dentist, providing specialty services, cannot make claims of superiority or advanced training when he has not gone through formal training – in terms as to how he represents himself to the public. And, in this case, Dr. Hendrickson, is a general dentist who has limited his practice to the surgical removal of wisdom teeth. And, he advertises very heavily. He has several billboards up and down the state, placards all over the community and multiple websites, all of which do not comply with that regulation. Meaning that he promotes himself as one who takes out wisdom teeth, that is all he does – you don’t need to see the oral surgeon because I can do it for you for whatever he is advertising.
The problem with that is that when people go to see him (Hendrickson) they don’t realize he is not an oral surgeon. He does provide the same level of care as an oral surgeon, but he is not trained. He graduated from Creighton in about 2003, as I understand it.
He uses a nurse anesthetist as the anesthetic, which is OK. But, we, as oral surgeons in the community around him have seen patients who come from his practice who develop post-operative complications, the way of infection, that is the most common one. And, so what happens is the patient either loses confidence in his practice and come and see the oral surgeon to treat the complication or the complication is beyond his ability to treat.
So, this creates a dynamic, where people are going to his practice because of the advertisement, but they do not know, until after the fact, that he is not an oral surgeon. And, that is the part we take issue with.
Any dentist can perform, any kind of treatment within the realm of his training under the Dental Practice Act. But, if he is going to advertise himself as doing that exclusively as a specialty then he is bound by the Dental Practice Act to state that to the public, so the public knows what they are getting, when they go to see that practitioner.
And, what happened is, we as his colleagues in the community have asked him several times to make that clear because as we have researched the circumstances we realize the public doesn’t know that and many of them feel that it has been misrepresented to them. And, he has not been responsive to that.
And, the professional regulation, in Utah run by the Department of Public Licensing (DOPL) which also covers physicians and other kinds of professionals who are licensed – and, so their main concerns are drug abuse and inappropriate contact with patients and that kind of thing. So, when DOPL was advised regarding these Dental Practice Act infractions, they just haven’t acted. They have too much else to do.
So, because Dr. Hendrickson did not respond and we got no support from DOPL, we felt the only thing left to do was, in the interests of truthful rendering of specialty care in our area, was to undertake a public education campaign.
And, that is our interest. And, that is our interest only.
Later in the interview, I asked in follow up, what kind of formal contact from the Trooth.Com Board or individual oral surgeons was made to Dr. Hendrickson. Dr. Nicholls replied that the Board had sent him a letter.
I requested a copy of the letter and Dr. Nicholls said that he would have to check with their legal counsel before he could supply the document. I will try to get the letter from the Board, Dr. Nicholls or from Dr. Hendrickson.
In Part Two of the interview, I will delve more into the issues of why the Board has seemingly taken the enforcement of the Utah Dental Practice Act into their own hands and what impact Dr. Nicholls sees in their public awareness campaign.
We will also discuss why some may see this awareness campaign, simply, as a Turf War, between specialty trained dentists who want to protect their own business interests from Dr. Hendrickson.