Updated on February 7, 2024
6 min read

How Can You Spot a Dental Scam?

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Dentistry is an important part of healthcare. Seeing a good dentist can positively impact your quality of life. Unfortunately, as in any other industry, not every practitioner is honest or has your best interests in mind.

This means there are scams to watch out for in the dental field. In this article, we’ll talk about common dental scams, how to spot them, and how to avoid them.

What are Common Dental Scams?

The most common dishonest practice in dentistry is to insist on unnecessary treatment. For example, a dentist may encourage you to get veneers (which can cost up to $2,500 per tooth) even if you’re a good candidate for bonding, crowns, or orthodontic treatment.

Specific dental procedures may be necessary in certain situations, but a dentist may push for treatment even when it isn’t called for. This can happen with fillings, root canals, dental crowns, and other procedures.

For example, significant tooth decay will require a filling or even a root canal and/or crown. But a dishonest dentist may insist that you need a filling even in the early stages when tooth decay can be arrested. Alternatively, they may push for a root canal and/or crown when a filling is sufficient.

Other common dentistry scams or fraudulent practices include:

  • Inflated bills Some dentists may add “phantom procedures” to your bill that never occurred. Similarly, they may dishonestly list something they did as a billable service, allowing them to get more money from you or your insurance company.
  • Unbundling procedures This is similar to inflated bills. Some dental offices may take a single procedure, such as a root canal, and divide it into multiple items billed separately.
  • Fraudulent insurance plans Some businesses may falsely present themselves as dental insurance companies to collect money without providing any benefits.
  • Misleading dental grants An organization may claim to be a provider of dental grants without giving you the full picture. They may work with a dentist to give you a “discounted” price that is still higher than what other dentists might charge.
  • Low-quality work Even an honest dentist can make a mistake, but they’ll do everything possible to avoid it. However, a dishonest dentist may deliberately provide poor treatment, so you’ll have to come back to pay for additional treatment.

What Are Signs of a Dental Scam?

Some potential signs that you’re dealing with a dishonest dental office include:

  • Poor communication If a dentist can’t explain why you need a certain procedure, it’s a bad sign. Likewise, a dentist should be able to discuss the costs and benefits of different options. You may want to obtain treatment elsewhere if they can’t do this.
  • Urgency without explanation Another red flag is a sudden urgency about a given treatment without any explanation. Similarly, a fake dental insurance company might push you to sign a contract without giving you enough information.
  • Unnecessary X-rays Some dental clinics take X-rays of your teeth even when they aren’t needed. They can then bill for these X-rays, getting reimbursement for an unnecessary procedure.
  • Poor patient reviews While one bad review isn’t always enough to draw a conclusion, you’re likely to avoid a clinic that has more negative reviews than positive ones.
  • Suspicious pricing Some dental procedures are simply expensive, and high prices aren’t necessarily a red flag. But if you suspect a certain price is unusually high, you may want a second opinion before beginning treatment.

If you already know you have a dental problem, you may need prompt treatment, and a sense of urgency may be appropriate. But you should be skeptical if your dentist doesn’t explain anything or the push for treatment seems unusually sudden.

How to Avoid Unethical Dental Practices

Your first defense against unethical dental practices is to do your research beforehand. Find out what previous patients have said about the clinic. If reviews are overwhelmingly poor or the clinic has no online presence at all, you may want to seek a second opinion.

Once you’re in the dentist’s office, be willing to ask questions about the benefits and drawbacks of different treatments. A good dentist will be able to respond with options and explanations.

You can also always decline treatment and do more research. It’s best to look for systematic reviews in published literature rather than websites simply trying to market the procedure.

What to Do If You Suspect Dishonesty?

If you suspect a dentist or clinic is being dishonest, do the following:

  1. Don’t agree to anything right away You can tell the clinic you’d like to look over some things and return at a later date.
  2. Do some research Go online and consult reviews, forums, social networks, and medical journals to learn about people’s experiences in similar situations to yours.
  3. Get a second opinion Consult another dentist, and compare what they diagnose, what they recommend, and the price they offer. You may want to get a third opinion if they differ substantially from what the first dentist said.

Is Dental Insurance a Safeguard Against Scams?

To some extent, having insurance may help you avoid dental fraud. Perhaps most obviously, it prevents you from falling into a dental insurance scam. You won’t be in the target market of a fake insurance provider if you already have real insurance.

Insurance may also make it harder for a clinic to deceive you about pricing. This is because they’ll have to bill your insurance provider, making it harder to pass off a fraudulent or misleading bill of services.

However, it’s still possible that a dental office might try to defraud an insured patient or an insurance company. Insurance providers can’t completely eliminate the potential for deceptive billing practices.

How Can You Find a Trustworthy Dentist?

To find a dental practice you can trust, do the following:

  • Ask around If you have a friend, family member, or coworker who has had dental work done, ask them about it. If they have good things to say about their dentist, you may want to visit them too.
  • Check reviews With or without a recommendation from someone you know, checking online reviews is a good idea. This can give you additional clues about the quality and honesty of a dental clinic, and it’s especially important if you’re traveling abroad for care.
  • Be willing to compare Seeing more than one dentist can provide perspective on good communication, reasonable costs, and other factors.


As in any other field, there are scams and dishonest practices in dentistry. These include misleading patients about treatment, insisting on unnecessary procedures, and deceptive billing.

You can avoid these dishonest tactics by being aware of how different dentists do things, seeing what other patients say, and making a reasonably informed decision.

Look for a dentist who communicates openly about different treatment options, their pros and cons, and their costs.

Last updated on February 7, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 7, 2024
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).
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