September 1, 2014
by By Randy Lang, DDS, D.Ortho
Over the past few years I have published a number of editorials in which I criticized Ontario’s “Zero Tolerance” law as it applied to dentists.1,2,3,4
According to this law, which is acknowledged as one of the most inflexible and toughest laws in Canada, if an Ontario dentist treated his or her spouse, even for a simple cleaning, the dentist could be charged with “sexual abuse”. And the mandatory penalty for a finding of “sexual abuse” by the Discipline Committee of the RCDSO was, and still is, revocation of the dentist’s license for a minimum of 5 years!
After the publication of my editorials, I immediately sent copies to the Minister of Health and also to a number of local MPPs, whom I personally knew. I also enclosed a cover letter explaining why the current legislation made no sense at all, was totally unfair to both dentists and their spouses and finally, why it should be changed immediately before good dentists are unfairly labeled as “sexual abusers” and have their careers destroyed.
The ODA, the RCDSO and hundreds of other concerned dentists and their spouses have also sent similar letters to the government on multiple occasions.
Each time, after I mailed my letters, I usually received a nice reply, assuring me that the Ontario Government was a “big supporter of dentists” and that our concerns about the law equating spousal treatment with “sexual abuse” would be addressed in the very near future.
Year after year, dentists and their spouses patiently waited for the government to act and change this ridiculous law.
And they never did — until this summer.
At long last, after years of dragging their political feet, the government finally passed a regulation permitting dentists to treat their spouses.
Dentists breathed a big collective sigh of relief. They could now treat their spouses without the fear of seeing their name in the local newspaper under the heading –
“Dentist Charged With Sexual Abuse”. They would also now save thousands of dollars because they no longer would have to pay high dental fees to the expensive dentist down the street for treating their spouse. And finally, those dentists who previously chose to take a chance and secretly treat their spouses no longer had to wear funny disguises and treat them in the middle of the night with a flashlight in order to avoid detection.
So dentists and their spouses were happy at last because they had finally achieved what they had been fighting for — or so they thought.
Unfortunately, when the “fine print” of the government’s new regulation is carefully read, two points make me shake my head in disbelief:
1. If you are not married, you can still be charged with “sexual abuse” of your live-in partner if you have been in that relationship for less than three years. This new law states that you must have lived together in a “conjugal relationship” for at least three years in order to legally treat your partner. In other words, if you are caught cleaning your partner’s teeth after living together for just two years and 11 months, you could be charged with “sexual abuse” and lose your license for five years. (Who thinks up these dumb laws?)
2. You can still be charged with “sexual abuse” for treating your spouse if “certain suggestive remarks, behaviour or conduct occurs between the dentist and his or her spouse while the dentist is engaged in the practice of the profession”. In other words, even if you have been married for many years, if you try to make a humourous “sexy” remark to your spouse while cleaning his/her teeth and the remark is not well received, you could be charged with “sexual abuse”. (And to think we waited years for the government to finally come up with this new, improved law!)
But why did it take so long for the government to finally act and correct an unfair law that could have been corrected easily years ago?
Perhaps the answer can be found in the term “political double talk”, which is when the government says one thing but actually means another.
For example, if the government tells you year after year that “Dentists have our full support in resolving their spousal treatment and sexual abuse issue”, and then the law is never changed, what they probably meant to say was “Sorry Ontario dentists, but you have less than 9000 members in your Association. On the other hand, our good friends in Big Labour have over 125,000 members in Ontario’s Public Sector Unions who are our big financial supporters and who, with their compulsory union dues, have contributed millions of dollars to our political party. So, with a provincial election always on the horizon, which group do you honestly think is going to get our undivided attention in resolving an issue affecting their members? And furthermore, with the almost daily published allegations of billions of dollars of waste, mismanagement and scandal within our government, the problems of a few thousand dentists seems rather small and unimportant to us right now. So, you will just have to grin and bare your spousal abuse problem for a few more years or until we have the time and inclination to deal with it”.
And don’t ever think that just the government is guilty of using “double talk”– my orthodontic patients use it all the time. There is a big difference between what my patients tell me and what they actually mean.
The following are a few examples of things I hear almost every day. (The italic translations represent the true meanings):
• ”I swear I wear my appliance all the time.” (I wear it some of the time.)
• ”I don’t chew very much gum.” (I only chew Double Bubble.)
• ”But I was sure my appointment was today.” (I had an invitation to go swimming yesterday at the time of my regular appointment.)
• ”I wear it a lot.” (I wear it a couple hours a week.)
• ”I just softly touched my brackets with my finger tip and they fell off.” (I came first in an ice cube chewing contest at camp last week.)
• ”I took my elastics off just before I came to your office.” (I haven’t worn elastics since my last appointment.)
• ”Some days I don’t wear it.” (I don’t wear it on days ending with a “y”.)
• ”I just dropped my retainer onto my pillow and it broke into pieces.” (I stepped on it.)
• ”Sorry but I couldn’t brush my teeth after lunch.” (I can’t remember the last time I brushed my teeth.)
• ”I don’t wear it very well.” (I haven’t seen it for over a month. We think the dog buried it.)
• ”I can’t find all the pieces.” (The dog got to it first. He is still at the vet.)
• ”My retainer suddenly got much bigger and it doesn’t fit anymore.” (I tried boiling my retainer to clean it.)
• ”I never chew gum.” (I have never chewed gum during a total eclipse.)
• ”My mouth is all ripped up and raw.” (I have a slight irritation in one l
• ”My retainer tastes like garbage.” (My mom finally found it after crawling through four McDonald’s dumpsters.)
So how can you tell if your orthodontic patients are speaking “double talk” to you?
Easy – their lips are moving!
Unfortunately, in politics it is a little more difficult to tell. OH
1. The Law Is An Ass. Editorial by Dr. Randy Lang, Oral Health, September 2004
2. More Insanity. Editorial by Dr. Randy Lang, Oral Health, September 2005
3. Dumb Stupid Laws. Editorial by Dr. Randy Lang, Oral Health, September 2006
4. Ontario’s Dumb, Stupid “Zero Tolerance” Law. An Update For All Canadian Dentists. Editorial by Dr. Randy Lang, Oral Health, September 2012