I like to work around the house building things. Although I’m not a master woodworker by any means, I know how to read tutorials and plans for simple furniture. I will even try more advanced things from time to time if I think I can do the project with a reasonable degree of professionalism. But there are things I just stay away from because the downside is too great if I goof up. Think…electrical wiring. I am sure that with serious study and work alongside a seasoned professional, I could grow comfortable with handling current that could turn me into a piece of charcoal. But the fact is, I don’t have that kind of time and the thought of becoming a piece of charcoal doesn’t appeal to me in the least. So, I stick with replacing 2x4s on my deck because, worst case scenario, I don’t die.

So, imagine how I felt the other day when I saw a story in an online news outlet with the headline “Why DIY braces are actually a terrible, terrible idea.” Wait, what do you mean by “actually?” As if DIY braces could ever, ever be construed as a good idea! The headline was so unbelievable that I almost passed it over as baloney journalism but as I searched for more info, I, incredibly, found many stories about how people were actually trying to fashion their own braces. I didn’t know what to say! I soon saw¬†social media (that bastion of good sense), there are companies springing up that will make the braces for you if you can get a plan for treatment approved. Uh…um..WHAT THE HECK?

OK, I stepped back a little bit and tried to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I tried to think of a situation where someone might be tempted to try making their own braces. Hm. Maybe I don’t have enough money to have a professional do it for me. OK. Maybe I’m pretty handy at fixing things around the house, even intricate things like jewelry. OK, what else? Maybe I’m thinking that I’m uncomfortable, my teeth hurt, etc. Fine.

At this point, I asked myself what would be the “Ah hah” moment? What argument would push our wannabe dentist over the edge and, at least in their mind, justify undertaking a procedure that I studied YEARS for? And then, it hit me. The one statement that, when it popped into their head, would release the emergency brake of good sense and unleash a world of hurt on this person or their “patient”.

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

At this point, not only do I want to scream, I also got a little twinge in the pit of my stomach. The worst that could happen is very bad. Where do I even start? Infection, lost teeth, jawbone damage. In extreme cases, a patient could develop scepsis and die. “What’s the worst that could happen?” would be my first question! If the consequences of goofing up are that awful, maybe I need to rethink this.

I have real feelings about this because I want everybody who wants it to be able to have their teeth fixed. Having seen the things I’ve seen during my career, I am truly sympathetic to people who need but can’t afford excellent dental care. But just money isn’t a reason to jeopardize someone’s health.

I know that this country is full of proud, hard-working, crafty people who have done amazing things by improvising when they had to. Some people even took risks to advance science or knowledge by trying things that pushed the bounds of creativity. New technology is being made available every day that is doing amazing things and putting incredible power in the hands of everyone. But in this case, there are things that even very sharp, crafty people can’t know without study.

And lastly, no amount of “can do” attitude can make up for really, really bad judgement. There is a measured amount of confidence that any doctor must have to make solid decisions in prescribing a course of treatment for a patient. People that do this are not confident. They are reckless and arrogant. I can’t believe that they think that the work they are trying to do will have an acceptable level of risk given what they really know about fixing teeth. If circumstances were different, I would be the first in line to recommend that these people be accepted into training programs where they could be taught to help people and take calculated risks to make better lives. If somebody came to me saying that they wanted to be a dentist, I’d do whatever I could to help.

But that’s not what’s happening here.

 

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