Should You Always Trust An Expert? Maybe, Maybe Not

07/29/2016 02:27 pm ET Updated Jul 29, 2017

I have had one of my wisdom teeth come in within the last month. That might not sound weird, but I'm in my 40s. Typically you should get your wisdom teeth in your 20s, so this seems a little late. I did get one about 20 years ago, but then I thought I was done. I figured that either I only had one wisdom tooth, or if I had more, they just didn't want to come in. And I was fine with that.

You might think it's strange that I'm talking about wisdom teeth. But stay with me here. I have a point.

Doesn't it seem like everyone has their wisdom teeth extracted these days? It seems like every time you turn around, someone is undergoing this surgery. And I always sit back and wonder why.

I'll tell you why.

My dad was a dentist. I grew up with him telling me a lot of things, but obviously, not all of them were about dentistry. However, I remember several words of wisdom (no pun intended!) that he gave me and my sisters about wisdom teeth. He made it abundantly clear that (and I quote), "As long as a wisdom tooth is not causing any problems, just leave it alone." So that's the guidance I have lived by.

My first wisdom tooth caused me no problems. So I left it alone. This one is causing me no problems, so I also plan on leaving it alone. My dad taught us that as long as you are not in pain or it's not crowding out your other teeth and moving them around, there's no reason to extract a wisdom tooth.

With that said, it makes me wonder how many people these days actually are having problems with their wisdom teeth. Are they in pain? Are the wisdom teeth crowding out the other teeth in their mouths? While I don't have any clear answers to that, I would venture to guess that many of the people who have them extracted probably don't really need to. I'm not saying all of them, but I'm assuming a decent percentage don't.

If I was a betting woman, I would bet that most of these people had their teeth extracted simply because their dentist said they should. But do these people do their research? Do they know their dentist's credentials? Did they ask any questions or did they blindly follow the expert's advice?

I have come to realize that just because someone is an expert, that doesn't mean they have the best of intentions for you. There are a lot of experts who have very selfish reasons for recommending their services. That's what my dad taught me about dentists. He said that any dentist who wants to pull your teeth when there aren't any problems just wants to make money off you.

In my classes, I teach the concept of "interpersonal power." And this is directly related to persuasion. You cannot persuade another person to do something unless they perceive that you have more power than they do. And in this case, I am equating expertise with power. In fact, it is a type of power.

I once dated a guy who said that his doctor gave him a different brand of medication for his ailment (it was a chronic condition). Then I asked him, "Why did he do that? Why is the new one better than the old one?" And he replied, "I don't know. He's the doctor. He knows what he's doing." But then I said, "Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn't. But it's YOUR body! You have a right to ask questions -- even of experts."

But you never know who is ethical and who is not. Even if someone is an ethical expert, they still may not have all the available information. For example, I have a friend who is a family physician. When I called her once when my kids were little asking her about a medical question she said, "I don't know. Let me Google it." And I thought, "Google it?! I can Google it! You went to medical school, so you should know this for crying out loud!"

One thing that is important to know is that expertise is relative. I am an expert in communication and relationships because I have a Ph.D. in it. But I am not an expert in cooking. Or fixing cars. Or pretty much anything else for that matter! If I have questions about cooking, I call my sister because she is the chef in the family. So in this sense, she is an expert compared to me.

The point I'm trying to make in this article is that we should not blindly follow someone's advice - even if someone is an expert. Ask questions. Seek other opinions. Do your research. Experts don't know everything. So make sure that you have your own best interests in mind. Because ultimately, you should make your own decisions.