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Ep #26: Michael Zuk, DDS: Confessions of a Cosmetic Dentist

In this trailer of our interview, Michael tells how the dental association yanked his book from the market in an effort to suppress information about patient harm.

Michael Zuk, DDS - Show Notes


Like father, like son


Michael grew up in Spirit River, Alberta - north of Grand Prairie - population 1,000 - Michael's father was minister, who also got into politics and became Mayor - and got into trouble mixing politics and religion, and Michael is following those footsteps and causing trouble himself - Michael's father was sued and forced off council for bringing attention to conflicts of interest


Some of those people were also in his congregation, so he was forced out as a preacher too - they tried to force him out of town, so he bounced around different jobs, like a cook - but others would get him fired - his congregation was told that they wouldn't get the sale price at the local grocery store


Michael did 1 year of college, 2 years of pre-dental study in Edmonton, then 4 years of dental school - graduated and opened his practice in Red Deer, Alberta in 1987 with a fellow student and they've been practicing dentistry ever since - Michael was good in science, on the quiet side, and enjoyed art, and these lead him to the dental profession


Molding and designing smiles requires artistic ability, blending with science - but this has also created problematic grey zones - initially in his practice, he was learning the hard way of what worked and didn't - later Michael learned there were a lot of continuing education programs, but also another side where corporate interests will train you to benefit the sponsor, and that can cause serious harm to patients


Most dental seminars have an underlying corporate interest or group that is benefitting - and the dental associations have not weeded out the courses that offer voodoo science and procedures that are unnecessary - some of the procedures are so new they haven't been tested on people


Patients become the guinea pigs - dentists can take a weekend course and start practicing that procedure on Monday morning - or dentists order 1,000s of dollars of products and equipment after being sold by amazing presentations


Some courses are just slight modifications to existing practice, but some seminars are organized similar to 'condo sales' where they try to get dentists as life long clients, or hook them into more seminars - the focus should be on quality of courses using standard of care, or using voodoo science - in some cases, dental authorities have known for decades about these dangerous procedures but have been unable to make a dent in stopping them


Because dentistry is a blend of art and science, there is no one right way to do dentistry - for example, orthodontists don't agree on what defines 'straight teeth', so each approach may have slight differences - so there are many different approaches - each dental authority will have representatives from each school of thought, and by corporate interests that can make changes to regulation


Corporate seminars


Most of the time dentists are paying 100s or 1000s of dollars for courses - some may promote an approach that favours their corporate sponsor, but doesn't meet the standard of care


Early in the 90s, Michael thought cosmetic surgery would be his practice, with porcelain veneers and porcelain crowns and did a number of courses, but the treatment they were talking about was aggressive - for example, drill healthy but crooked teeth and cover them with porcelain so they look straight - this often also required root canals due to the drilling


To Michael, that was an obscene and inappropriate and conflicted with his approach to drill as little as possible, but most courses promoted drilling to put in crowns - the underlying problem of making money, influenced the treatment dentists recommended


Michael learned the courses could not be trusted to teach what was appropriate - and if there was a problem, the corporates wouldn't come to defend the dentist - so Michael didn't trust the courses, or the equipment they were pushing, and doesn't provide the benefits they advertise, and that is an embarrassment to the profession 


There are dental device certification programs but they are not very stringent - and the studies cited are not of good quality and are cherry picked to support claims - under scrutiny, many of these seminars would not be producing benefits they are promoting 


There is a quiet movement within the profession to push back against these corporate seminars - orthodontic companies have been known to lie and exaggerate benefits of their products - even though studies may show a product does not work, it will still be sold at industry trade shows - not every dentist is aware of these issues and can take years to pull them off the market


Michael wrote a book, "Confessions of a Cosmetic Dentist", but it has been banned by the Alberta Dental Association and College forced him to take it off the market because it was harming the integrity of the profession - the topic of the book was over treatment by cosmetic dentists and the reasons why - the Alberta Dental Association considers themselves the global work police


They even took a look at seminars Michael had given in Florida as the 'uncosmetic dentist' to encourage them to do more orthodontic and less veneers and have tried to make Michael look bad - his book being pulled is an example of how the dental association is involved in a cover up and don't want the public to know what is going on


Michael's book is still available in the after-market - he had sent a copy to CBC's Marketplace tv program, Your Money is Where Your Mouth Is, where they went undercover - a 15 year girl came to Michael and had been told she needed all of her teeth capped and crowned for sensitivity, and that would have required drilling down to stumps and she would have been irreversible harmed for life


Motivated by money


Her gum sensitivity went away in a couple of weeks of using Sensodyne toothpaste - over treatment is unbelievable - they are motivated by money, but to Michael it is more about being mislead by these seminars where they think they've been trained properly on legitimate procedures


These dentists are like terrorist bombers that have been convinced to give up their life for a cause, and most of these dentists truly believe what they are doing is correct - for example, in dental college, they are taught to refer full mouth reconstructions to o prostodontists, but the seminar will convince the dentist they have the skills - and patients are losing their teeth prematurely because they listened to their dentist


Scary to think they are wiping out the patient's life savings and dooming them to a life time of replacement teeth - in these cases patients are losing their teeth


Michael says it was a mistake by the dental authority to have his book removed from sales, because a few years before they sent out an article titled "I have had enough" about the problem with continuing education courses and over treatment on unsuspecting patients and said cosmetic surgery had turned into a monster


It was clear the Alberta Dental Authority sent it out to scare dentists about over treating - but on the back of the newsletter for 20 years was the company that had been selling these seminars and getting awards from the Alberta Dental Association and College - and given the "Friend of Dentistry" award from the Canadian Dental Association - but promoting very irresponsible and getting the highest award


The Alberta Dental Authority (ADA) was paid every month to advertise these seminars and giving credits for these seminar courses - and then flying Alberta patients to Las Vegas for treatment where they do not have licensed or malpractice insurance


Michael has reported this practice to the ADA but has had no response - they did not want to embarrass their friend - when patients did complain, they were given the cold shoulder - one of Michael's dental assistants was flown to Las Vegas by another dentist and to this day will tear up because her teeth were drilled down to stubs but were only a little crooked


he needed root canals and now they ache and she got no help from the ADA - Michael believes in the next few years more patients will know of this and raise hell - this is a global problem, these seminars reach dentists all over the world, and dental victims all over the world


Recently the Ontario Dental College has said that neuromuscular dentistry is not approved for full mouth reconstruction or headache treatment - 'neuromuscular dentistry' electronic pulses of the jaw muscles to find the 'perfect' bite - when Michael was in dental school, one the gurus of this approach taught at Micheal's school, and he saw first hand how it was done, and now it has been twisted so they have an excuse to use a full mouth crampons


Dental associations are turning a blind eye


ODC would not have come to this decision lightly - Manitoba has joined - now these 'neuromuscular' dentists are calling themselves 'physiologic' dentists - they just changed the terminology, the procedures are the same - but the dental associations are not moving fast enough


Michael took it upon himself to notify all the Canadian provincial and most US state dental boards about this important statement of the ODC - he's had some responses - Nevada dental board is being torn apart by the Governor because a victim is standing up to the corruption within it - Nevada and Alberta dental boards are joined at the hip to promote this 'treatment'


Patients are not getting represented in this problem, dental associations are turning a blind eye - an example, a patient was mislead about a sketchy procedure and harmed and complained to the ADA who decided to make an example out of the dentist, but failed to mention the procedure that caused the harm - the ADA spent upwards of $1 million in legal fees going after this 1 dentist


The patient got $11,000, so something wrong with the system - the lawyers don't want to change it, they're making a lot of money - if a harmed patient comes to a lawyer, they will not take the case involving dental harm


ADA doesn't know what its doing - having non-dentist answering questions - saying there is no recognized treatment for TMJ so anything goes - blaming Health Canada and any one else but themselves - if they offer the patient a settlement, it is a fraction of the cost of the long term harm - it is like if you received cancer chemo for the common cold and ended up with liver damage - this is the fear with over treatment


urrently there are 2 members on the ADA council who've been trained in this discredited approach - 1 has spoken out against it, but another 1 has flown patients to Las Vegas


Talk to a few more victims, it is terrifying - Michael spoke to a malpractice lawyer in San Francisco who became a victim and she sued the dentist, so it can happen to any body


A lot of these dentists are dedicated to education, unfortunately they've dedicated themselves to the wrong seminars - they can use all kinds of dental technical terminology, unfortunately it is based on an incorrect science - partly motivated by money and by respect of their mentors - and they don't want to admit they've made a mistake, it is embarrassing


Probably most dentists would agree that if they looked at the recommendations of some of these dentists, they would disagree - and they would talk about it privately, but to talk publicly, like with you, risks being alienated - even if they agree with Michael, they don't like that he talks about it publicly because it tarnishes every one


Sued for $9 million


Currently the same dental lab is promoting some of their dentists as TMJ experts in magazines that go to the public - a dental lab would wait for the dentist to refer to create crowns for the patient - now they're trying to promote dentists who use their systems to the public - but dental authorities have no control over dental labs, can't pull their license


The most that will happen is the lab will get a letter - but this has been going on for over 20 years and all the top people are making millions of dollars and it has to be exposed, it is insane - the ADA launched a multiple prong attack against Michael


The ADA is trying to discipline Michael for his advertising - orthodontists straighten teeth - many ways to make a smile better - but it is insane to over drill, and that is not Michael's approach and that stepped on the toes of traditional orthodontists 


Michael's approach is common in the UK and is proud of it - at a hearing, there were 17 binders of advertising complaints against Michael - from his book, his seminars, websites - sued him for $9 million for defamation for criticizing dental authority for not doing enough to protect patients


Michael had reported a drunk dentist doing something inappropriate to another dentist, right in front of Michael, he sued Michael - this man was the president of the council that MIchael was also on - the council helped this man with costs and information but not Michael - they have since dropped the lawsuit - the dental lab has threatened to sue Michael, that is why he is not naming them

0:53:15 has a lot of the info - the clear connection between dental authorities and over treatment is there - it is mind boggling that they keep coming after Michael because he is not being quiet - most dentists find it easier to shut up - but Michael is at the end of his career so if they pull his license he will be okay 


Michael needs to speak out because the provincial Health Minister isn't listening and the public has a right to now - Michael has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars - no patient complaints, just from colleagues - everything Michael says about good dental practice, the ADA challenges it - everyone in the profession knows you shouldn't leave braces on forever 


Some dentists leave braces on until they get their money - bottom line is that there is a turf war with corporate interests and it is just a mess - Michael uses his free time to expose the hypocrisy in the profession - and patients are still being hurt


The ADA is trying hard to pull his license - they've spent more money on Michael's case then the British Columbia (BC) provincial dental association has spent on all of their dentists - and more than all the physicians across Canada - Michael was elected to the ADA council to make change, a lot of dentists back him and that the old boys club has run the ADA for decades


Nevada Dental Board ripped to pieces by the Governor


Why would a lawyer be the ADA's Complaints Director with no dental experience - so some miniscule complaints have blown up to be big complaints, while important complaints get ignored - the Canadian Dental Authority in the last 12 months stated in their magazine that a task force on the future of dentistry - and should look into the continuing education courses and if the content is viable


They say they "should' look into it, but 'should' doesn't get the job done - if they are going to ban this approach, why are they also giving credits for taking the course? - yet Michael has approached many past presidents of the ADA and they said they are not willing to go that far, but Michael thinks it is coming


Michael can be found on social media - his website MichaelZukDDS - - he profiles a lawyer, and her #1 recommendation for dentists to avoid lawsuits is to not take these controversial seminars - Michael says that if we can't talk openly about these issues in the public, there is something wrong


Michael believes patients in Alberta may be looking into a class action lawsuit - Michael recently read about class actions against dental authorities - Michael's ultimate goal right now is to get the ADA audited from the outside - he wrote a book for the Health Minister of Alberta and met with him recently


The BC Dental College was recently audited and there was a long list of concerns - the Nevada Dental Board has been ripped to pieces by the Governor over its corruption - Michael the ADA will not hold up under an outside audit - if the Health Minister makes that pronouncement, the ADA will have to change - if they won't, the ADA can be torn apart - currently they've joined the College and the Association together, they're supposed to be representing dentists and patients


But the ADA only represents itself, and insiders get cushy jobs - there is a lot of corporate interests, and the patient is way down on the totem pole - when there was a sedation injury from a dental surgery - the ADA said they would not revise the surgical sedation guidelines, but eventually changed their example of not putting patients first


It is messy, but Michael is putting his time in because it is his way of giving back to the profession that has been very good to him, and it will come out better for everybody - the most egregious example of dental harm Michael has seen is the approach to drill down every single tooth in a person's mouth is ridiculously unacceptable


The next wave of dental practice that will be another scandal will be good teeth pulled out so they can have implanted teeth - but they are not as good as your own teeth - dental implants are going to be the next big problem, it will be a mess


Full mouth implants


Implant failure is a problem - for example, if you have a full mouthful of teeth dependent on 4 implants, and if 1 of the implants fails, they all fail - so if you can't afford to pay for full mouth implants 2 or 3 times over without blinking, you should probably not take that approach because there is a good chance the treatment will fail, and it will fail 100%


Dentists may be over confident in their ability to perform this procedure - they may have only taken a weekend course - the lawyers will sniff this one and it will create a back log of complaints in the dental authorities - and the dental authorities have no standard procedures for implants - they wasted time on botox - dentists were using botox and saying it would reduce headaches and clenching


Why are they letting all these dental implant courses be for credit? There is not enough regulation for this highly advanced surgical procedure. Michael thinks to fix the dental industry, there needs to be outside reviews


Currently, dental authorities will assign an ethics course for dentists they think are subpar - but that does nothing for their skills - a lot of these courses have no testing at the end - you can sneak out, go for lunch, lay on the beach, you don't even have to be there - even if dentist is in the course, it doesn't mean they are good at it - surgery is serious and there needs to be standards in the profession - perhaps that will be his next book, but he's got his hand full with the current issues


Michael says to choose your dentist carefully, pay close attention to what is being banned by dental authorities, and get them to explain what it means 


But most dentists don't actually read all the bans from the dental authorities, so it is time to get it out there and talk about it - according to legal experts handling malpractice cases, there is a reason these people are being sued


Trying to find reliable info is a 'black hole' - a lot of the information that was available on websites has been vaporized - for example, you can't check to see if a dentist has taken a particular course, because now the dental authorities don't want dentists to list the courses they've taken - so they've taken away info patients may need to make an informed decision - now dentists don't have to say what institution they got their training, so patients don't know if it is prestigious or credible


If the training is not up to par, that training should not be eligible for course credit - re-training of dentists who've been mislead by these seminars is imperative moving forward - but Ontario and Manitoba have taken small steps in the right direction


It will help when more stories hit the media - it is a great way to expose bad practices - it is unfortunate that this is the process we have to go through to improve dentistry - we have to scare 100 people in order to save 2 people from irreparable harm


Michael hopes the ADA will be audited and the administration will be reassembled and that his case is set aside by a higher authority like the Health Minister - if Michael loses his license over this, he will not stop arguing and will be a thorn in their side as long as he's around