Rochelle Cole has trouble chewing her food these days. And, at age 35, the problem isn’t the result of age.
‘I cannot bite through pickles, I cannot bite through cheeses and soft breads,” said Cole. “There are certain things I can’t eat at this time.” The Toronto woman says her problems began about nine months after her dentist custom-fitted a night guard, a device commonly used to help prevent patients from grinding their teeth and causing damage.“There’s only some things I can now do in the kitchen,” said Cole. That’s especially a problem for Cole who is a Red Seal certified chef, whose ability to taste food is an element of her trade. “You have to be able to bite down properly and taste the food and that will be lacking until she gets that fixed,” said Dr. Mark Burhenne, a California dentist who sympathizes with Cole’s predicament. Cole’s issues with food began after her Toronto dentist recommended she begin wearing the night guard. She did for several months, but says on a trip to China, she found it difficult to chew her food. The problems persisted when she returned to Canada. She went back to Toronto dentist Dr. Lisa Fruitman several times. Fruitman fabricated two other devices and sent her to an orthodontist for examination, all at no cost. Eventually, when there was no solution, Fruitman offered Cole $2,400 as a “goodwill gesture.” “I do not want her money. I want my teeth fixed,” Cole told Global News. Cole filed a complaint with Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, the body that licences dentists. Its investigation into the complaint and the dentist’s professional conduct has not been completed. However, a separate and independent investigation by the organization that insures dentists in Ontario concluded that Fruitman acted “within the standard of practice” expected. In a report, it was pointed out that “similar case outcomes are present in the dental literature,” wrote Dr. James Posluns, assistant dean of clinics at the faculty of dentistry at the University of Toronto. He concluded that Cole “reacted unusually to the appliance” adding there is “no way for a general practitioner or a specialist to predict this outcome prior to the insert of a night guard.” Cole maintains the dentist did not inform her of all the risks associated with wearing a night guard. Fruitman says she did give advise Cole about the pros and cons of wearing a night guard. However, in one response to the college defending her actions, she wrote: “An open anterior bite as a result of wearing a standard, full cover night guard is exceedingly rare and thus it was not one of the disadvantages discussed.” The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario licences and regulates dentists in the province. “A dentist’s obligation primarily is to give the patient all material information so the patient has the information in that process to offer consent to the dentist for the treatments recommended,” said Irwin Fefergrad, the organization’s registrar. Asked to comment, Fruitman referred us to her lawyer, Jonathan Lisus who called his client a “thorough and competent professional.” Lisus said Fruitman was “saddened” that her former patient is “dissatisfied” but called allegations “groundless and wholly unsupported.” He wrote that “multiple clinicians have confirmed that Dr. Fruitman’s care and treatment were entirely appropriate”. Cole’s bite can be corrected. But she says orthodontists have told her it will cost in the range of $5,000 to $7,000. She says she shouldn’t be responsible for the costs. The province’s dental college says there is a high standard expected of dentists if something goes wrong with a treatment. “The dentist has the responsibility to do the best he or she can to try and correct what has gone wrong and we like dentists to do that so patients are well treated, well looked after,” said Peffograd.