“People are shocked to learn they can be sued for posting, ‘My dentist stinks.'”

by Walter Olson on September 3, 2010

No disrespect to any actual dentists intended, honest. It’s just an example (from Eric Goldman) from an article on the proliferation of suits charging online defamation. “‘It was probably inevitable, but we have seen a steady growth in litigation over content on the Internet,’ said Sandra Baron, executive director of the Media Law Resource Center in New York.” [L.A. Times]

P.S.: “A Duluth physician is suing the son of a former patient for publicly criticizing his bedside manner.” [Duluth News Tribune via Citizen Media Law, McKee v. Laurion]

{ 7 comments }

1 Nicolas Martin 09.04.10 at 11:33 am

Dentists have earned disrespect. They have formed a cartel that has driven the cost of care so high that many Americans can no longer afford treatment. In the past 30 years the population of the US has risen significantly, but the number of dentists has remained static. The cartel has restricted entry into the profession by closing dental schools and limiting the number of graduates. The average dentist’s income is higher than the member of another popular cartel: the physician. The dental cartel blocks cheaper alternative services, such as allowing hygienists to operate independently. Occupational licensing is rarely more destructive to consumers than in the case of dentists.

Libertarians, and free market fellow travelers, tend to go soft on doctors and dentists, despite their well-documented cartel profiteering. I think this is because they are not government employees (yet), and are thought to have humanitarian instincts. Also, members of the two professions often tilt in favor of free markets — except in their own cases.

2 Doug 09.06.10 at 9:14 am

I think dentist have the right idea. Restricting the number of dental schools have kept their income at a decent level that provides for their families. Lack of govt interference allows the dentists to perform more charity and reduced pay scales, if they desire. Personally, I don’t think a hygienist should be practicing independently, a dentist who has far more experience and knowledge should always be close by. And if they had to be “government employees” look to see fewer and lessor quality.

3 Bob Lipton 09.06.10 at 9:47 am

Of course no one likes dentists because of the pain that people associate with them, but in defense of them — and my dealings with dentists have always been excellent — I had a very good dentist as a child and young man, and I have a very good dentist now. Yes, the cost of an appointment is higher now than then, but between inflation and the greater sophistication of my current dentist’s equipment and procedures, I don’t consider my current dentist comparatively more expensive than my first dentist.

Doctors also restrict their membership, have a practicing guild and manage to hide most of their income from the population by use of medical insurance, usually paid for by people’s employers. Fewer plans cover dental. If your medical plan doesn’t cover dental work, you see the cost as more than the co-pay for doctors of medicine. Your anger, Doug, is understandable but misplaced.

Bob

4 Bob Lipton 09.06.10 at 12:49 pm

This is not to say that all dentists are angels, skilled an dedicated practitioners of their iatrogenic techniques. Some are incompetent, just as some are in every profession and trade. I just think there’s little sense in saying “My dentist stinks.” Surely you mean your ex-dentist.

Bob

5 Doug 09.07.10 at 3:31 pm

Bob, I have reread my posting, and I nowhere suggested that I was angry at anyone. In fact, I think dentists generally do a fine job and deserve to keep the income they receive. In fact, I would argue that receiving a bill for the cost of the procedure could work to lower your costs if you were able to shop around some for a better price.

6 Bob Lipton 09.07.10 at 8:48 pm

My apologies, Doug. On looking through the comments, I see I confused you with another poster.

Bob

7 William Nuesslein 09.09.10 at 6:30 am

The cut back in dental schools may be related to the effectiveness of fluoridated water, better dental hygiene due to improved incomes, and efficiencies in dental tools and x-ray equipment. Within a minute of zapping my teeth we can see pictures on his laptop computer. He uses epoxy that is hardened by exposure to light of a specified wavelength.

My dentist works hard on me as my teeth are, in runs in the family, heartbreaking. He is a swell guy,too.

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