I was watching some water polo on TV this afternoon. This isn’t a sport that is heavily televised outside of the Olympics, so it’s not something I’ve seen much of. Two things I noticed…
It is a SERIOUSLY rough sport. More fouls than hockey and more dirty tricks than professional wrestling!
Mouth guards. They all had them. At the time outs, they’d all swim to the side and take them out to discuss strategy. But as soon as they were subject to flying elbows and head butts, they were wearing them again.
The one thing I didn’t see while watching water polo? Avulsed teeth and bleeding lips. Although I did see a couple of black eyes.
If you play sports, you should have a mouth guard. If you’ve tried one and don’t use it because it’s not comfortable, come see me. We can make you a custom fit mouth guard that’s comfortable to wear and looks sweet. Team colors, American flag, whatever you like. They’re a little bit more than the boil and bite type you buy at the sports shop, but they cost a lot less than dental implants, crowns, bridges or (say it ain’t so) dentures.
This post is a follow up to an article I wrote about a few months back.
My conclusion: if you don’t trust that your dentist has your best interests at heart, you need to ask them about it or find another dentist.
A couple more points were made in the second article that are worth reflecting on. One commenter was quoted to say:
“My wife saw a dentist who quoted her $750. Then halfway through the job, when she was numb and had a big hole in her mouth, he told her he misquoted the price and it was going to be $1,500. She could not exactly argue.”
What can I say about this? I’m about 99% sure that the dentist was preparing a tooth for a crown and realized that there were bigger problems with the tooth than expected. The tooth was probably going to need a root canal treatment as well as the crown in order to save it. I’d love to say something like this has never happened to me, but it has. I try to explain possible risks and complications prior to starting a treatment. However, it’s not unheard of to need to revise my diagnosis and treatment plan once I’ve had a chance to look closer at a problem. I try to avoid these kinds of surprises, but when it happens I explain it in plain English. The patient always has a choice to refuse treatment. I’m guessing that this patient didn’t feel like their dentist explained what was happening very well and the patient came away feeling like the dentist was putting the screws to them. Unfortunate, to be sure.
Most of the rest of the article tried to explain why a) dentistry is expensive and b) why one dentist costs a different amount than another. I think dentists spend way too much time trying to justify their fees and way too little time explaining why we suggest the things that we do!
The very best part of the article was in reference to “how do I know if my dentist is a good one?”
“Ask a dental specialist, like an endodontist. One specialist wrote to tell me, “The best way to find a good dentist is to find a specialist who sees everyone’s patients on a referral basis. He or she will know who is good and who isn’t. Trust me, as a specialist, I know who is doing what, because I see their work every day.”
That’s a tip I had never thought of, but I think it’s valuable.
After reading the follow up article I come up with conclusions similar to the first article:
Dentistry is expensive.
No one* likes having to have dental work done.
No one likes paying the bill.
Prevention is MUCH less expensive than needing work. But having work done immediately is similarly less expensive than waiting if something is broken or it hurts.
“Dental insurance” isn’t really like insurance at all. Dental benefits are kind of like a gift card. Usually it’s like a gift card that covers about half of the gift you’re looking for. It may help with some of the costs of dentistry but is not likely to pay for more extensive needs.
So talk to your dentist. Ask a lot of questions. Get a second opinion. Or third! Try to be a good consumer and you’ll feel a lot less like a victim.
If I can answer any questions about this post or any other dental questions I would love to hear from you! I can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I answer all of my own email and would love to hear from you! Or you can call the office at (989) 799-9133. I would love to be your Saginaw dentist!
*I know there’s probably someone reading this who thinks “I like seeing my dentist so much I’d go more often if I could!” You are great people to have as patients, but frankly, I wonder about you.
I think I’m supposed to be upset that the author could accuse my profession of such a thing. I wasn’t. I actually found the article to be reasonable and well thought out.
The author explains that his friend is going to need some dental work:
“Cost of the crowns: $1,395 apiece. Cost of foundation fillings, or ‘cores’ to put the crowns on: $326 apiece. Total bill, if you’re scoring at home: $3,442.”
The take home message here is “dentistry is expensive.” I can’t argue with that. That’s a lot of money to spend on a couple of teeth. The author went on to explain that this particular dentist was expensive for his region. The author called the office to ask why this they charged so much more and he seemed irritated at the response he got:
“The office assistant told me ‘not all dentists are created equal,’ and of course, this dentist is one of the best in the area, using a great lab.”
Perhaps he is an awesome dentist. As long as the friend of the author is O.K. with the fee the dentist is charging, I’m not 100% sure why the author cares. It seems that the author is using this particular situation to explain that dentistry is expensive. He goes on to ask the most important question in his whole article:
“But how can someone who is not a medical professional know if their dentist is worth their fees?“
The author goes on to suggest some very useful and common sense ideas about how to evaluate if you’re getting the most for your money at the dentist’s office. My favorite point that he makes is about prevention:
“Prevention saves a boatload of money. Brush, floss, and use your fluoride rinse…”
Readers of this blog know that I completely agree. Prevention can keep costs down better than anything else. If you’re having dental professionals clean and evaluate your teeth on a regular basis it’s much easier to catch problems when they’re small. But what if you’ve already ended up needing some work? What if you’re too late for prevention?
This is reality for a lot of folks. Many people have stayed away from the dentist because they perceive that they can’t afford to have their teeth fixed and/or they are afraid of the dentist. Unfortunately once you’ve stayed away for awhile the cost of fixing things usually goes up. Further, dental insurance is not very much like health insurance. Dental insurance limits the amount that they will pay for in any given year. If you’ve been away for awhile your insurance will only help so much. So either you’re going to be paying significant amounts out of pocket or you’re going to do a little bit this year, a little bit next year and so on. Further, dental insurance won’t cover all treatments. They usually cover whatever fixes a problem most cheaply for them. They don’t take into account what may be better for the patient in the long run. (think dental implants vs. bridgework)
What you need is a relationship with your dentist. You need to trust the dentist’s diagnosis and you need to trust the dentist’s motives. You need to be able to let the dentist diagnose your problems and recommend treatment, but also you need to be able to let the dentist know what your financial limitations are. I read some of the many comments from readers about the article. Many of them were like this one:
“I don’t trust them either…went to the dentist for a cleaning…was told that I had a couple of cavities (understandable) and that my “bite was off.” What does that mean? I ask…your bite is uneven (side to side, not an over or underbite) and can lead to other problems down the road. Hours and hours and a couple thousand dollars later, nothing feels different at all. I got up sold like I was buying a car!”
It made me cringe to read some of the comments. So much of the anxiety and pain that these people go through could be avoided. If you’re not sure that your dentist has your best interests at heart, you need to ask. Let the office know! If you’re skeptical of the dentist’s diagnosis you need to get another opinion before treatment is started or perhaps you just need to find another dentist. Further, you need to require that your dentist’s office explains the costs of treatment to you before starting treatment. You shouldn’t be surprised by a bill. So much of our problem with health care in this country is caused by patients not making the decisions about how their health care dollars are spent. If you’re only finding out how much you owe for treatment after it’s done…it’s too late!
I was bracing to not like this article. I thought it was quite well thought out. It brings up a lot of good points and most importantly it reminds us that we need to have a relationship with our dentist and their office. If you don’t feel like you can ask questions and that you’re not being taken care of properly you need to find another dentist.
Questions of comments about this post? Do you have any questions you’d like to ask a dentist? Feel free to contact me at email@example.com or call the office at (989) 799-9133. We’re always taking new patients and would love to be your Saginaw dentist!