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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.
Knowing what to look for at the dentist is essential to protect your oral health and bank account from common dental scams. We'll take a look at some bad dentist warning signs and how to prevent getting scammed.
Like any industry, there is always a potential for dishonesty for financial gain. The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimated that 3% of the total healthcare spending 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 numbers would put the monetary loss to scams and frauds in the billions.
Certain factors in dentistry 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.
A dental office staff member will typically contact your dental insurance company to determine what's covered under your dental plan. This can help them quickly list everything you must pay for during your visit.
However, this can leave you vulnerable to receiving treatments that may not be the best for you but is most likely to be reimbursed by the company. This also makes you vulnerable to receiving unnecessary treatment.
Some insurances request very little proof of the need for many types of procedures. A bad dentist may use this to charge you for procedures you don't need.
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 happens. This research signals the need for a significant change in how dentists manage tooth decay.
It also suggests that many dentists may request unnecessary procedures to make more money. This may also extend to other procedures, such as dental crowns.
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.
You should 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.
There are various warning signs of a dishonest or bad dentist. These include:
Always carefully check your bills and explanation of benefits. Beware of phantom treatments you never received or suspiciously inflated bills.
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 understanding all the factors occurring in your body. A comprehensive dental exam is critical for good dental care and an accurate diagnosis.
It can also lead to the prevention and early detection of oral and general health conditions. When you visit the dentist’s office, ensure you receive a comprehensive dental exam or consider looking for a new dentist.
The first and most important step when you visit a dentist is to ask for old dental records from your previous clinic. If they don't ask for previous dental work, it's a sign that they're not taking your dental health seriously.
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 give dentists 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.
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.
If a dentist tries to upsell products, this may indicate that they care more about making sales than patient care.
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. You do not need X-rays at each dental visit if you have good oral hygiene and a low risk for cavities.
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.
If your dentist uses outdated treatment methods or old technology, that's 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.
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.
Everything in a dental office must be clean and sanitized. This includes:
Dental clinics that aren't clean may suggest that the staff isn't 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.
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.
Here are some ways to prevent dental scams and find a good dentist:
Dentists should never sway you from getting a second opinion. If they have nothing to hide, they will not discourage you.
If you are unsure about a diagnosis, visit another dentist for a second opinion. 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.
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:
Sometimes, dentists recommend several treatments at once when not all are necessary. Only pay for dental procedures that are urgent or cannot be put off.
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.
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