The Dentist Relo Scam

I went to the dentist this week for a filling. That in and of itself isn’t worth blogging about. My dentist and I have been watching an old silver filling for a while, knowing that one day it would need to be replaced. Yesterday was the day.

But I got to thinking while I was getting my cheek jabbed with a needle… I started going to this dentist several years ago. On my first visit, he could have suggested removing this older filling right away. He could have insisted on expensive gum treatment for my near-chronic gingivitis. He didn’t. He worked with me to get these problems fixed over time.

Many other dentists in the northern burbs are not like this. I believe there is a concerted effort by some less-scrupulous dentists to take advantage of relos. Want an example? Check out some of these reviews of dentists around town. Here is the scenario I’m talking about… You’re a young office worker who’s been moving around a lot. Reloville calls and you land in Alpharetta. Your crazy job and moving might have kept you from regular dental visits. Wanting to change that, you find a dentist accepting new patients and book an appointment for a cleaning. Everything is going fine until the end. The dentist says four or five teeth need fillings or maybe a crown. On top of that, he suggests that you need expensive gum debridement that isn’t covered by insurance. You’re looking at maxing out your insurance for the year and upwards of a grand out of pocket.

This happened to me after going to a larger practice down near Roswell. Something didn’t feel right so I got a second opinion. This second dentist wanted to do only one filling.

So what gives? I’m no expert in dentistry, but I think this stuff is very subjective. Maybe my tin foil hat is on a little too tight today, but I think some dentists here take advantage of relos. They have no interest in keeping you as a long-term client. Why should they? You’re gonna be moved to another suburb in a few years anyway. So they do what they can to bilk you and your insurance for as much as they can for a year or two. Old silver filling? Yeah, that’s gotta come out now. Bad gums? Yeah those need a deep cleaning. Expensive toothbrushes? Yeah you should buy them from us.

My best advice is to get second and third opinions. This can be a pain in the ass since you’ll have to purchase a copy of your X-rays. Most insurance plans only pay for one a year. Paying for copies tells an office they are about to lose you as a customer. They might not be tremendously helpful when you ask, but you are entitled to them. Get your copy and run! Start shopping around pronto.

The best way to beat the relo dentist scam cycle is to establish a longterm relationship with a dentist. I like smaller practices with only one or two dentists. Ask for referrals from any non-relos you might know. Also ask those who give you the referral if they’ve been patients for a while.

When will this novocaine wear off?

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