Recently there has been an article going around from MotherJones.com titled ” How your dentist may be ripping you off”. The author of the article talks about a personal experience being taken advantage of by a dentist then proceeds to paint the entire dental profession as a group of crooks practicing in fraud and what she describes as “creative diagnosis”. While I agree that there are many unethical dentists in our profession, I would submit that this is the case in any business be it plumbing, or lawyers, or even coffee shops like Starbucks. The author talks about seminars that dentists take on upselling or maximizing revenue as though it were unheard of, but isn’t this the same thing that when Starbucks trains its Baristas to ask if you want food with your drink? Studies show that the majority of dental patients are interested in whitening, so what’s wrong with asking patients if they are interested in whitening when they come in for their hygiene visit? The only time upselling violates a dentist’s ethical code is when they are prescribing treatment that is completely unnecessary.

I think the problem with dentistry is that effective treatment planning is often confused with upselling but there is a big difference. Effective treatment planning means condensing diagnosed treatment into fewer appointments. For example if a patient has 3 existing cavities on 3 connected teeth, an effective treatment plan would be to schedule a single visit to treat all 3 cavities instead of breaking them apart into separate appointments. It’s true that by doing this the cost of the single visit is higher because the patient is paying for all 3 treatments at once BUT the patient was already going to be numb in that area and we can save the patient time.

The final bone I have to pick with the author is that she cautions against getting a “Cone-Beam” X-ray because “it delivers a dose of radiation up to 18 times that of a traditional dental x-ray”. She makes this claim without any basis or reference. She doesn’t cite any research or quote any doctor. This is just plain irresponsible.

Many of you know that we are proud of the new Sirona Galileos Cone Beam (CBCT for short) that we have recently added at Dee for Dentist. We did a lot of research on this subject prior to purchasing the machine and the amount of radiation exposure was topped our priority list. In a peer-reviewed article published in 2013, the Sirona Galileos Cone Beam is specifically listed as emitting 64% LESS radiation than a traditional film-based full mouth x-ray.

Because CBCT technology is new to the dental field, the real question is when is it necessary to take this kind of image. At Dee for Dentist, a CBCT has replaced the traditional full mouth X-ray that we require to become an established patient. Following the initial scan, we base follow up images on the patient’s conditions. That being said, a 2012 article published in Implant Dentistry suggests,

Because the 3D information obtained with CBCT cannot be obtained with other 2D imaging modalities, it is virtually impossible to predict which treatment cases would not benefit from having this additional information before obtaining it.

So how do you keep from getting ripped off by your dentist? I would suggest asking your friends and family for referrals, getting to know the dentist, then trusting your gut. You should find a dentist that you are comfortable with. Also, ask a lot of questions. When prescribing treatment, the dentist should be able to show you through X-rays or intraoral pictures why the treatment is needed. Finally, if you have any doubts or are unsure about what treatment you are getting, don’t agree to the treatment.

For a great article that goes into greater detail about finding a great dentist, check out this article on “How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off By The Dentist” from Vox.com.

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