Shot at dentists overlooks the many ways they carry out their mission

Read the full letter here.

Alex Beam’s description of dentists as evil (“How to meet dental needs,” Opinion, Sept. 5) unfairly characterizes oral health care providers here in Massachusetts and beyond. We disagree with the sentiment Beam expresses toward the profession, but we appreciate his concern and hope that this attention can be used to raise awareness of the importance of oral health and the need to close the gap in access and coverage.

Beam completely disregards activities such as the TeamSmile dental clinic through which Massachusetts dentists provide free dental care to Boston children. He apparently doesn’t know about Forsyth Kids, a program of volunteer dentists and hygienists that has given free preventive care to low-income children at schools and social service organizations since 2003, or Commonwealth Mobile Oral Health Services, which since 1979 visits more than 200 sites annually to deliver dental care to children living in state facilities. All three of our dental schools and their partners work at hundreds of schools and community sites to provide care.

 

Improving patient access, reducing disparities in care, and emphasizing prevention are priorities for the Commonwealth’s oral health providers. The Massachusetts Dental Society continues to campaign for increased enrollment of dentists in MassHealth. It is the only state dental society to work with its sister organization, the Massachusetts Medical Society, through an oral health committee, to develop an interprofessional strategy to improve the oral health and general health of our local communities.

Beam’s need to mischaracterize an entire class of medical providers just creates distrust among patients who are already portrayed as afraid of the dentist. The truth is that for most dentists, our core mission is to encourage health and well-being and to care for our patients in a way that focuses on disease prevention and management. Only Beam could see that as self-serving.

Dr. Jeffrey W. Hutter, dean, Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Boston University

Dr. Bruce Donoff, dean, Harvard School of Dental Medicine

Huw F. Thomas, dean, Tufts School of Dental Medicine

Rebecca Rutenberg