Oral Health Group

In a World of Zeros, Let Us Reclaim the Degrees

December 1, 2012
by Dr. Fay Goldstep

The word judgment is defined as the “the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively and wisely, especially in matters affecting action”. Judgment is based on good sense and discretion. In today’s world we dismiss this important attribute. Our language is full of “don’t judge me … let go of judgment…” Judgment has been relegated to the trash bin due to the perception that judging produces negative “feelings” to the recipient of our judgment. However, as we have eliminated the negative emotions that judging may sometimes generate, we have also removed our ability to discern, to make a decision, or to form an opinion objectively and wisely. We have entered the downward spiral world of ZERO TOLERANCE.

In this world we have not only lost our ability but we have also lost our right to judge. We must rely on and accept the often ludicrous rulings of our leaders that lump all degrees of actions and situations into one big heap under the net of zero tolerance.


Many schools have zero tolerance policies for alcohol and drugs. This has resulted in cases of mandatory expulsion for possession of Tylenol, Alka Seltzer, cough drops and even mouthwash. Zero tolerance for weapons in schools has resulted in expulsions for Halloween costumes with paper swords or toy guns, as well as the possession of rubber bands. We have all heard tales of the criminal deviant behaviour of a mother who puts a small paring knife in a lunch box to cut an apple, causing her daughter to be expelled … and the “sexual harassment” of a six year old kindergartener who is kissed by her little six year old “boy friend” forcing his expulsion. I am not even going to comment on the bizarre sexual harassment laws regarding health professionals in Ontario that cause my friends and colleagues world-wide to stop and stare incredulously when I try to explain them. What a surreal world we live in!

How wonderful it is that we are beginning to change our “zero thinking” in dentistry! For many years, we treated decay and demineralization with an all-or-nothing approach. We either watched-and-waited for decayed surfaces to get bigger and require more extensive treatment or we removed all lesions including small incipient ones. We now know that these small lesions can be treated and effectively remineralized. Today we also have the technology to detect and monitor the efficacy of our treatment. And we have bioactive materials that can work with the body to help heal enamel, dentin and even pulp tissue.

The current issue of Oral Health explores the possibilities in detecting, healing and monitoring dental hard tissue as well as preparation requirements that ensure maximum longevity of our composite restorations. We are asked to understand, analyze and employ judgment to determine degrees of treatment, which of course depend on circumstances. All-or-nothing does not work anymore. We may not be able to change the ridiculous path society is taking. But in our profession, in our own small way we can shake off the zeros and reclaim the ­degrees …

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