I have been going to my dentist for the past 18 years. It's a family practice: the dentist, his wife (hygienist), his sister-in-law (appointments and billing), and some additional staff I've never dealt with (I think an associate dentist and a hygienist.) I enjoy my visits very much, just really lovely people, every six months it's nice.

However, I've been developing a problem that I don't think they're taking seriously enough. I don't want to insist, it'd seem like I was telling him how to do his job. They're so nice, I feel like a jerk. So, I've been thinking about going to a different dentist to get a second opinion.

How do I do that without offending my dentist? Surely dentists share records and also my insurance would rat me out for cheating?

Edit: I'm not scheduled to see him again for a few months, so if I go with the "tell him" option do I need to call him first or just make an appointment with someone else myself, and what do I say once I go back next time?

  • Where do you live? Different countries have different cultural practices and different industry code of ethics.
    – nick012000
    Aug 11, 2018 at 5:43
  • I live in a large metropolitan area of the United States with no shortage of dentists :-)
    – Duke Leto
    Aug 11, 2018 at 15:41
  • "Surely dentists share records". Not sure for the US, but that would be against the law where I live (France).
    – Taladris
    Aug 12, 2018 at 2:11
  • 1
    @Taladris The US has federal regulations regarding releasing patient information. I over-simplify things but the basic provision is: they can only share with your consent. Sep 3, 2018 at 23:19
  • @baldPrussian: that makes sense. Thanks
    – Taladris
    Sep 4, 2018 at 1:37

2 Answers 2


I've worked in the medical field for a little bit, including directly with physicians.

First of all, yes, they have egos. Secondly, however, they're used to people getting second opinions. They have as their main charge seeing to your continued health rather than their ego.

I'd imagine the same is true with dentists. If they're anything like physicians, and I suspect they are, they are used to people asking for second opinions. The main thing is to be up front with your medical providers about what your plans are.

They don't need to know WHY you want a second opinion and that really doesn't matter. What matters is that you see someone competent for your second opinion. And your dentist should be used to recommending someone else. If they give you any bit of a hard time about wanting a second opinion, then it's time to switch your care to someone more professional.

Believe me when I say medical providers have WAY too much to do than look at your records when they don't have a reason to. Secondly, the US has HIPAA, which prevents sharing your information aside from only where necessary. That includes your insurance, for which "ratting you out" would only create extra paperwork. That said, a care provider will inform, via letter, another care provider when they see that provider's patients. That ensures your care is continuous and nothing gets missed - it's to your benefit.

As for the "what do I do" part of your question: that's really out of scope here. The interpersonal side of this is, again, to be frank with your provider about what you do, and do not share your reasoning. Discuss your concerns about your health frankly - there is nothing you can ask that they haven't heard something more embarrassing. Tell them you want or got a second opinion and what that was, and ask why that treatment plan is better or worse than the one they have.


I've been developing a problem that I don't think they're taking seriously enough. I don't want to insist, it'd seem like I was telling him how to do his job.

You need to discuss what you think the problem is and ask how they can fix it.

  • If they explain that there is no problem then you should expect that waiting for them to fix it is pointless.

  • If they agree that there is a problem then you need to discuss a schedule by which time you should expect this matter to be dealt with.

The reasoning behind that advice is that you have brought this up with them and they have provided you with an answer. If you didn't understand part of the answer, why it's not a problem, then that's the portion that needs a better explanation.

If you know you are correct and that they are wrong you need to take your business elsewhere. Indeed, with something more complicated than what you are qualified to know about, you can seek another opinion.

The question arises: If the next dentist agrees with the first will you accept that, or if two out of three isn't enough will it need to be three out of five? You need to obtain a satisfactory explanation that you understand otherwise you will continue to question what is being said to you.

If it's necessary to book an hour long appointment to discuss this then that's what you need to do. The dentist probably won't mind being paid to talk instead of working on your teeth, since you are paying for it. If you try to book for a procedure at a fixed price then want a free consultation thrown in for good measure that comes out of the dentist's pocket instead of yours.

You should be able to ask for a recommendation to an expert in the particular field of dentistry that is specific to your problem. There are a limited number of experts whom have taken the extra training to specialize and being recommended to them is necessary to book an appointment in most cases. You could visit another dentist and ask if they will refer you to an expert.

Only you can decide if the problem lies with: the explanation, the listener, the dentist. If you are in any pain you should change dentists. If you are worried that one tooth is a little crooked then perhaps the dentist doesn't believe that you would want to pay over a thousand dollars to fix it.

You need to explain what you think the problem is.

You need to obtain an explanation that you understand.

You can ask if they will remedy your complaint even if it's a trivial matter.

To spell out the reasoning, for others whom would say that the reasons were not provided, it's your mouth and you are paying for it. Your dentist should take your complaints seriously and you should take an expert's advice seriously. If you don't have confidence in your dentist you need to go elsewhere.

I'm not scheduled to see him again for a few months, so if I go with the "tell him" option do I need to call him first or just make an appointment with someone else myself, and what do I say once I go back next time?

Call your dentist soon and book an appointment for a consultation. Use the time to discuss this beginning to end to your complete satisfaction. You can ask for referral to an expert if you feel it's necessary. If they refuse then you need to decide between staying or seeking another practitioner.

If you consider yourself friends with this family then you should feel comfortable discussing your care with them, they might wonder about whether or not you accept their advice if you go behind their backs and ignore the advice you have been given.

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