Times are tough in this economy, and dentistry is no exception. Dentists are feeling the pinch of the economy in their production from a decrease to a great case work such as crowns, bridges, and veneers. This is their bread and butter, and it’s getting thin. It’s in times like these that their values and ethics are tested. How can you know if your dentist is being honest and not trying to squeeze production dollars out of you and your family for unnecessary procedures? Here are some potential red flags to be aware of from Dr. Michael Smith D.M.D:
1. If you have never had a cavity before but suddenly you are being diagnosed with at least two new cavities per visit. This CAN be a red flag, although it can happen. Any changes in medication, diet, stress, oral care, illness, or dry mouth can impact your decay rate. It’s also possible that your previous dentist did not do a good job at finding the cavities and they were overlooked. If no reasons for the changes can be determined, be suspicious.
2. ALL of your old silver fillings suddenly need to be replaced. True, they do wear out, break down, and need to be replaced. This is usually a gradual process though, and most dentists will approach this based on priority, gradually. If your old fillings were all done at about the same time, then it’s likely they all do need to be replaced. But dentists who insist on doing them all at once and are not willing to work with you on creating a plan are not in it for you.
3. ALL of your fillings are being replaced with crowns. Sometimes this is inevitable when there is too little tooth structure (enamel) left to have a stable tooth that won’t break. In general, being proactive with a tooth that has a crack or has a severe loss of solid enamel by placing a crown is the best way to go and can prevent eventual loss of the tooth. However, there are many times when a filling will do the trick if there are no visible cracks in the tooth. Ask questions, a good dentist will answer them honestly. Sometimes this is just a matter of a feeling you have about him or her.
4. Your dentist says you need a nightguard or bruxism guard, and you are certain that you do not clinch your teeth together or grind them at night. Be sure though, sometimes this is a subconscious activity, and the patient is not aware it is happening. Pay close attention over the span of a couple of weeks.
5. Your dentist does not present other options available that would be completed by another specialist, such as braces, TMJ treatment, and implants. Dentists who are only interested in discussing what THEY can do for you may not have your best interest at heart unless they have extra credentials that qualify them in that specialty.
6. You notice large increases in fees. Although dental offices do have large overhead costs, with lab fees, equipment, disposables, and employees, some dentists raise their fees at a higher rate than their costs are rising. Fees are not an exact science, and making a few phone calls to area dentists to check their fee for a procedure is a good way to assess. Just be sure you are comparing apples to apples. Sometimes there are additional fees that go along with your procedure that you may not be aware of, such as doing a core buildup with a crown.
7. Your cleaning visits seem hurried and short. Having thorough teeth cleaning is imperative to good dental health, and it takes time to do it well. Dentists who push their hygienists on tight schedules to maximize profits are not partnering with you to provide you with the best care possible.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get involved in your care. Although it is a business and it has to be profitable, the vast majority of dentists are honest and put the patient first with their bottom line a close second. If you have qualms about anything, your dentist has recommended, get a second opinion from another dentist (get a referral from someone you trust).