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Updated on December 12, 2022
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Warning Signs of a Bad Dentist

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Is Your Dentist Scamming You?

While most dentists are considered ethical and professional, some are dishonest. Unfortunately, some dentists abuse their positions of authority to scam patients and insurance companies for money.

It is essential to know what to look for at the dentist in order to protect your oral health and bank account from common dental scams.

How Common are Dentistry Scams?

Like any industry, there is always a potential for dishonesty in order to reap financial gain. 

The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimated that 3% of the total spending on health care in the United States is lost to fraud. 

Although that may sound like a small percentage, consider that dental spending is projected to reach $203 billion by 2027.7 These number would put the monetary loss to scams and frauds in the billions.

Why is Dentistry Vulnerable to Fraud? 

There are certain factors of dentistry that leave the profession particularly vulnerable to fraud.

The decision as to whether you require dental treatment is typically in a gray area. One dentist may give specific advice, while the other may give different recommendations. This is normal and should be expected.

However, the subject nature of a dental diagnosis means that the typical signs of insurance fraud are more challenging to detect. It is more difficult to understand whether a procedure is necessary or not.

Do Dentists Lie About Cavities? What About Unnecessary Crowns? 

Research suggests that, in many cases, there is no need for the traditional ‘fill and drill’ technique to fix cavities, which has defined dentistry for decades.1 In many circumstances, patients do not actually need fillings.

Following a set of protocols called the Caries Management System (CMS), researchers say tooth decay can be stopped, reversed, and prevented long before a cavity is necessary.

This research signals the need for a significant change in the way tooth decay is managed by dentists. It also suggests that many dentists may request unnecessary procedures to make more money.

When it comes to crowning teeth, many dentists are also very eager to perform the procedure because it pays well, even when unnecessary.

If you are considering a crown, do not agree to the treatment without good reason. Also, consider seeking a second opinion. A crown on a healthy tooth is not good as it puts the nerve inside under a lot of stress. 

12 Warning Signs of a Bad or Fraudulent Dentist

There are various warning signs of a dishonest or bad dentist. These include:

1. They Charge You for “Phantom Treatments” 

Always carefully check your bills and explanation of benefits. Beware of phantom treatments you never received or suspiciously inflated bills.

2. They Perform a Non-Comprehensive Dental Exam

A comprehensive dental exam means ‘including everything as necessary.’

Your oral health is linked to your overall health. A good dentist will take a holistic approach to understand all the factors occurring in your body.

A comprehensive dental exam is critical for good dental care and an accurate diagnosis. It can lead to the prevention and early detection of oral and general health conditions.

When you visit the dentist’s office, make sure you receive a comprehensive dental exam or consider looking for a new dentist.

3. They Don’t Gather Your Dental History/Records

The first and most important step when you visit a dentist is to ask for old dental records from your previous clinic.

If they do not mention it, it is a warning sign they are not taking your dental health seriously.

4. They Recommend a Cone-Beam X-Ray Instead of a Digital X-Ray

Cone-beam X-rays and digital dental X-rays perform very similar functions. Both X-rays expose the inner areas of the tooth and the tooth roots. 

However, 3D cone beam scans provide dentists with a more complex look at your smile. This includes the teeth, jawbone, and other oral and facial structures.

A cone-beam x-ray is also more expensive than a digital x-ray. If your dentist insists that you require a cone-beam x-ray instead of a digital x-ray, there is a chance they may be trying to make you pay more.

5. They Give You a “Creative Diagnosis” 

Diagnosing a condition without proof of dental x-rays or a mirror is very common with cavity scams.

If your dentist gives you a creative diagnosis and recommends costly procedures without evidence of why you need them, consider seeking a second opinion.

6. They Try to Upsell Products 

If a dentist tries to upsell products, this may indicate that they care more about making sales than patient care.

7. They Charge You for Extra X-Rays

Full sets of x-rays are only required every one to two years.

If your dentist tries to charge you for more, this is a sign of a scam. If you have good oral hygiene and a low risk for cavities, you do not need x-rays at each dental visit. 

8. They Rush to Treat “Microcavities”

Microcavities or surface cavities are the earliest signs that a tooth is becoming decayed. However, not all cavities will progress and need a pricey ‘fill and drill’ treatment.

Beware of a dentist who rushes to treat microcavities as a filling may not be necessary.

9. They Use Outdated/Old-Fashioned Tactics

If a dentist uses outdated treatment methods or old technology, this is a red flag.

Many newer dentistry methods provide more affordable services for customers. A dentist who uses old technology or treatments may be looking to charge more money or provide a lower quality service.

10. They Recommend Unnecessary Procedures

If a dentist suggests various expensive treatments, there is a chance some, or even all, may be unnecessary.

Your dentist may be trying to charge you more money to undergo procedures. If you are being recommended to get dental treatment each time you visit the dentist, consider getting a second opinion. 

11. They Have Poor Hygiene

Everything in a dental office must be clean and sanitized.

This includes the reception, receiving area, and the inner clinic. If the dentist’s office is not clean, this could suggest that the staff are not following certain protocols and standards. 

The most important responsibility of healthcare workers is ensuring the tools they use are clean and sterilized. If not, unclean tools could put the patient at risk of infection.

12. They Have a Bad Online Reputation 

If a dentist has a bad reputation, this is a major red flag.

If they are not suggested by the people you know and have negative feedback online and on social media, it is essential to find a new dentist.

4 Tips for Preventing Dental Scams

Here are some ways to prevent dental scams and to find a good dentist:

1. Get a Second Opinion

Dentists should never sway you from getting a second opinion. If they have nothing to hide, they will not discourage you.

Visit another dentist for a second opinion if you are unsure about a diagnosis. Or, you can set up a teledentistry appointment for a second opinion. 

Visiting Denteractive is an excellent option for a second opinion, providing easy access to professional board-certified dentists in your area. 

2. Talk to an Online Dentist Beforehand 

If you have a minor toothache or another dental problem, it might be best to check with an online dentist before visiting a dentist’s office. Getting an online opinion can help prevent unnecessary treatment.

There are plenty of teledentistry services that provide access to high-quality board-certified dentists in your area, including:

3. Only Pay for the Treatments You Need 

Sometimes, dentists recommend several treatments at once when not all are necessary. Only pay for the dental procedures that are urgent or cannot be put off.

4. Check Reviews/Do Your Research Before Choosing a Dentist

Ask for recommendations before arranging a dental visit. You can ask your friends and family for suggestions to see if they have a professional dentist you can trust.

Last updated on December 12, 2022
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 12, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Evans, R Wendell et al. “The Caries Management System: are preventive effects sustained postclinical trial?.” Community dentistry and oral epidemiology vol. 44,2 : 188-97.
  2. Tracye A. Moore RDH, MS, EdD and JoAnn Rover, RDH, MPA, “Advantages of Teledentistry Technologies”, The Journal of Multidisciplinary Care, Decisions in Dentistry, November 2017
  3. Rashidian, Arash et al. “No evidence of the effect of the interventions to combat health care fraud and abuse: a systematic review of literature.” PloS one vol. 7,8 : e41988.
  4. Joudaki, Hossein et al. “Using data mining to detect health care fraud and abuse: a review of literature.” Global journal of health science vol. 7,1 194-202. 31 Aug. 2014.
  5. Kisely, Steve. “No Mental Health without Oral Health.” Canadian journal of psychiatry. Revue canadienne de psychiatrie vol. 61,5 : 277-82.
  6. Ellis, Mathew, and Ilona Johnson. “Exploring dentists' professional behaviours reported in United Kingdom newspaper media.” British dental journal, 1–5. 27 Aug. 2020.
  7. Tony Edwards. “U.S. dental spending projected to reach $203B by 2027”.
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