The California Dental Assn. has come up with a bill you can give your dentist.
It's called the "Dental Patient Bill of Rights" and might be best summed up by the motto of CDA's director of information, Bob Ingle: "Ask questions. Get answers."
Very soon, all CDA members--about 75% of all California dentists--will be receiving kits in the mail that include a stand-up card printed with a word to the wise dental consumer.
"We get calls every day asking about situations patients encounter in dental offices," said CDA Executive Director Dale F. Redig. "It's obvious that a great many people don't know what to expect and that makes them feel wary and uncomfortable. It can delay their getting needed treatment.
Ingle said the organization's research showed, to nobody's surprise, that many people are apprehensive about a trip to the dentist. The "Dental Patient Bill of Rights" is designed to help dispel some of that fear.
Ingle said the need to educate patients about their rights was underscored by a recent episode of the CBS program "60 Minutes" which showed some clinics in California engaged in high-volume, high-profit dentistry with the help of an aggressive sales force.
Ads promoting the CDA campaign appeared in Los Angeles newspapers, as well as papers in San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. Also, national news magazines will be carrying ads in the near future.
"We're sending out dentists to help promote this in radio and television interviews," Ingle added.
"So far, the feedback has been about 10 to 1 in favor of the campaign from dentists. We have received 10,000 requests for pamphlets. A lot want to mail them out with bills," Ingle said.
Still, he acknowledges that "dentists are conservative people by nature" and there are some uneasy about this move. He is quick to point out to critics that there is nothing new about the rules outlined in the Bill of Rights.
"This is just the first time they've been put in layman's language," he says.
The rules show up--twice--in a pamphlet by the CDA geared toward patients, titled "Know Before You Go." In addition to the "Bill of Rights," the pamphlet explains dental specialties and recommended dental office procedures and gives an insight into the tasks that dental professionals perform.
Also included in the pamphlet are brief rules about what to do when confronted with a dental emergency, such as a knocked out or broken tooth, or an object severely wedged between teeth. An admonition on the front says to keep the pamphlet close to family health records.