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Why Has the Public Lost Trust in Doctors? And How Can Dentists Rebuild It?

July 11, 2022
by George Freedman, DDS, DiplABAD, FAACD, FASDA


In March 2022, the Edelman Trust Barometer provided a significant warning that eroding trust has harmed, and is likely to continue to damage, individual and public health outcomes in the post-COVID-19 era.1 More than 50 percent of those surveyed worry that science has become politicized. Fully 63 percent say that the COVID-19 pandemic has decreased their confidence in the healthcare system, while 51 percent indicate that the pandemic weakened their relationship with their personal healthcare providers.1 In a separate study, 74 percent of patients answered that trust is the key reason that they stay loyal to their dentist.2 A 2022 independent research report quantified that 28 percent of dentists reported a decrease in active patients (likely understated), and 86 percent of practitioners attributed the decrease to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.3 More than 25 percent are working more, taking less pay home, or spending more on advertising to make up for the income shortfall.3

What has precipitated this massive loss of trust? The COVID epidemic’s sordid history of conflicting edicts and mandates, politically-inspired moving goalposts, smug self-appointed “experts”, and absurd “mathematical models” have served to erode the trust EARNED by the medical-dental professions over the past two centuries in just two years. Every failed “model” of impending disaster was replaced by an even more outlandish and incredible projection of imminent calamity, supported 24/7 by the mainstream media’s screeching harpies, who, driven by their obsession for increasing viewership/readership, provided self-appointed doom merchants with massive airtime. No contrition for incorrect predictions. No scientific explanations. Simply the constant, deafening drumbeat for a continued march towards irrational mandates that damaged the entire populace. Few today are convinced that politicians and public health officials were strictly following the science; it seems that decisions were made for political convenience and virtue-signaling, all too often defined by non-health related objectives.

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Trust underpins and drives the health economy, directly inspiring citizens to engage in their health and to improve their lives. We in the dental profession must build back mutual confidence, social capital, and trust to bolster health resilience. We must speak HONESTLY to peoples’ values and real concerns. Witness the CPSO “Statement” on April 30, 2021, that sought to muzzle professionals’ private communications regarding COVID with their patients.4 (Imagine the paradigm shifts in medicine that would not have occurred if similar gag edicts had been applied to Pasteur, Semmelweis, Banting and Salk.) We must speak CONSISTENTLY, with reproduceable science as our solid base. And we must speak TRANSPARENTLY, treating our patients and public as the responsible adults they are. Confusion creates distrust. We start by rebuilding patient relationships, one by one, realizing that the promise of trust in health and healthcare are crucial foundations for our population, our households, and our communities. And never allowing third parties to interfere with this sacred trust again.

References

  1. Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and Health, March 2022 https://www.edelman.com/trust/22/special-report-trust-in-health
  2. Data Driven Dentistry, Oral Health Journal, 2020.
  3. Data Driven Dentistry, Oral Health Journal, 2022.
  4. CPSO Statement on Public Health Misinformation 4/30/2021.
    https://www.cpso.on.ca/News/Key-Updates/Key-Updates/COVID-misinformation

About the Editor

Dr. George Freedman is co-founder and past president, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry; co-founder, Canadian Academy for Esthetic Dentistry; Regent and Fellow, International Academy for Dental Facial Esthetics, and Diplomate and Chair, American Board of Aesthetic Dentistry. He is Adjunct Professor of Dental Medicine, Western University, Pomona, California and Professor and Program Director, BPP University, London, UK, MClinDent Programme, Restorative and Cosmetic Dentistry. Author of 14 textbooks, 900+ dental articles, and numerous webinars, lectures internationally (esthetic restoratives, adhesion, implants, veneers, 3D printing, and dental technologies), and maintains a private practice limited to Esthetic Dentistry in Richmond Hill, Ontario.


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