William G. Dickerson, DDS, FAACD
Las Vegas, Nev.
Editor`s note: Several readers have responded to Dr. Bill Dickerson`s article titled "Walking the Fine Line," which appeared in the October 1999 issue of Dental Economics. Following is Dr. Dickerson`s response to those letters, all of which appeared in the January issue of Dental Economics:
I did enjoy the letter from Dr. Robert A. Johns and want to compliment him for the work they are doing through the Fifth District Dental Society of Kansas. It is exactly in the atmosphere that I was talking about. It is happening because of dentists who can afford to donate their services simply because they are adequately compensated in their private practices.
The person Dr. Michael D. Switkes described in his letters is not me. My intentions are and always have been to improve the profession of dentistry, not just for the sake of dentists, but for the public. To go inside someone`s heart who you do not know and accuse him of doing things for reasons you know nothing about is just harmful to everyone who wants to help. It prevents those who may have some value from contributing for fear of being attacked. We`ve seen what it has done to the political arena - keeping a lot of good people out of politics.
But Dr. Switkes exemplifies what is wrong with our profession. He states that dentists are overpaid, even though we have not kept up with inflation in 26 out of the last 28 years. I cannot disagree with him more, but his guilt about the fees that dentists charge is what has contributed to the destruction of our profession. I believe dentistry is a bargain. But, worst of all, he has misrepresented what I said in my article. I never said that my "services provide such happiness that the patient should just find the money somewhere." He even put in quotes a comment he claims I made, yet nowhere in the article can you find this statement. He claims I said, "Once we educate the public to the great value of dentistry ... everyone who wants it can afford it." I never made that statement, nor do I believe that. The content of my message was that if dentists were adequately compensated, they could provide this type of treatment to those who valued it but couldn`t afford it. Dr. Switkes made a very profound statement in his argument: "Quality of work is not good for the average dentist." The reason that may be true, Dr. Switkes, is because they can`t provide excellence unless they charge for it.
Dr. Barry Parish, although much more civil and professional in his letter, also misunderstood my message. I would encourage him to re-read the article. He stated, "I hope we all are clear-headed enough to recognize that his logic is truly flawed if he thinks premium prices in all markets will also serve the poor. Those serving the top parts of an economically segmented market cannot serve the poor, short of providing charity service." Dr. Parish, that is exactly what I was talking about. Instead of providing service for fees the poor can afford to everyone who walks in your door, you can lower or even eliminate the fees for just the poor while serving the rest of the public for a fee worthy of our services. He stated that the case would not have been done if I had not provided it for free. First of all, that is not true as they were saving money and making desperate attempts to raise the money. I could do it because I could afford to do it. Many dentists are also so busy worrying about feeding their own families that they could not afford to do something like that.
You also make my entire point of the article when you write, ODr. Dickerson cannot provide for his family and provide the type of dentistry at costs the poor can afford.O You are absolutely right. Thank you, as that is the entire crux of my article. And, because I don?t charge those fees, I can provide cases for free. If every dentist charged what I charge, he or she could provide dentistry to those who were truly in need. That would be the best for the poor ? instead of having inferior dentistry done for a cheap fee, they could have quality work done by a dentist who values the service he or she provides for the same fee or less.
Dr. Parish, the article was not a marketing piece. The Las Vegas Institute is sold out for the rest of the year. We really have no need to market. All that matters is that I did what I thought was right. I?m certainly not perfect or some angel. I?ve made my share of mistakes. This was not one of them. My point about us all being wealthy and thereby being able to provide OqualityO service to the poor is, in my opinion, right on target. What matters is that I helped one person potentially improve his life. Wouldn?t it be great if we could all afford to do that?