Maine Citizens Ask: Must I Really Strip and Shave for My Dentist?

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Shy about going to the dentist now? Just wait. If the Maine Board of Dental Examiners gets its way, women in the state who require certain "standard of care" dental procedures will have to bare their chests to their dentists. This is not a joke. The MBDE is the first and only dental board in the country to propose that all dental patients who wish to receive a form of standard pain and anxiety sedation be required to have an electrocardiogram (ECG) administered in their dentists' offices. In order to place ECG electrodes properly, women patients will have to bare their chests and men will need to let their dentists shave body hair.

"I think you have a cavity....Please remove your blouse"

Stop the Pain in Maine

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Hard as it is to believe, the State of Maine dental board is poised to approve new regulations that will require some patients to "strip and shave" for even common dental procedures, such as root canals and fillings, according to a group calling itself "Stop the Pain in Maine".

The approval could come as early as Friday, September 12, when the Maine Board of Dental Examiners (MBDE) votes on a plan to require Maine dentists to administer an electrocardiogram (ECG) to all patients who opt for a popular, safe form of pain and anxiety sedation.

Maine will become the only state in the nation to ask dentists to place electrodes on their patients' bare chests, arms and legs in order to administer this widely accepted "standard-of-care" sedation, according to the group. Local dentists note that many physicians prescribe the exact same medication to patients, who administer it to themselves at home without any medical supervision whatsoever.

Dr. Michael Silverman, a nationally recognized expert on so-called "oral conscious sedation" says the Maine dental board's proposed ECG requirement is "patently absurd." More than 2 million adults in the U.S. have been treated safely, painlessly and effectively by their family dentists using the exact same sedation medication without the need for an ECG, Dr. Silverman notes.

Neither the American Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry nor Dr. Silverman's organization - DOCS Education - recommend the use of an ECG for the same protocols Maine's board says require an ECG.

Maine residents who are already squeamish about visiting their dentist now face the very real specter of having their dentists require them to remove their shirts or blouses. (To be effective, some dentists may ask women patients to remove their bras as well.) The ECG may also require dentists to shave body hair off their patients, in order to be effective.

Oral conscious sedation, also known as OCS, has helped high-anxiety dental patients receive fear-free dental treatments for more than a decade. Last fall, after a prolonged and in-depth review, the American Dental Association issued nationwide guidelines for OCS to ensure its safe use by family dentists. The ADA guidelines do not require or even recommend the use of an ECG.

Some local Maine family dentists believe the Maine dental board is seeking to require the use of an ECG in a thinly veiled bid to force patients in the state to seek out higher-priced dental specialists, including oral surgeons.

"This is all about greed, not public safety," says Daniel L. Steinke, D.D.S., M.A.G.D., one of the concerned Maine dentists. "Members of the Maine dental board are betting that rather than having dentists placing electrodes under their blouses/shirts, most patients will seek out the high-priced specialists or avoid the dentist altogether."

It is the likelihood that patients in Maine will avoid the dentist altogether that has Dr. Steinke and his fellow Maine dentists so concerned. He points out that the medical evidence is abundant showing a correlation between poor oral health and poor overall general health.

Dentists nationwide have contacted the Maine dental board and Governor John E. Baldacci, who appoints members to the board, to point out the harm the new rules will unleash. Governor Baldacci has made access to care and preventive medicine one of the foundations of his administration.

The Maine dentists are asking area residents to phone Governor Baldacci at 207-287-3531 to express their opposition to the Maine dental board's proposals. The board is scheduled to approve the measures this Friday, September 12, 2008.

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