At some point in life we all have dental problems. Some are minor and others require a bit more work. Finding a good, and more importantly an honest, dentist these days is becoming harder and harder though. Case in point, I recently found myself needing the help of a good dentist but what I found was something that really scared me. It's also something I feel shouldn't be acceptable in any industry that provides a service related to health. After looking into it, and seeing that it's more common than just myself having a bad experience, I thought it was something worth writing about. Especially since I'm at a point now where I need work done, but I'm stuck on what to do.
My experience started a year ago. Normally I had done a really good job of taking care of my teeth, brushing as I was told, using mouthwash, and all the other things dentists recommend one do. The only thing I wasn't great at doing for the last several years was seeing a dentist on a consistent basis, and well...avoiding coffee and cigarettes. It didn't help that dentists aren't cheap, and dental insurance has been hard to come by. I began to notice some problems were starting to develop and decided it was finally time to see a dentist.
The first dentist I saw noticed several problems, including a few cavities and some other things I wasn't aware of. As he said though, it wasn't something that couldn't be taken care of. That made me feel better, as I was worried that maybe I had waited too long because of a lack of money and insurance. He wrote up the list of work needed and included the pricing. My heart sank when I saw what the bill would be. A few thousand dollars, and without insurance there was no way I could afford it. I asked about the major issues, and was told that they were somewhat related. In other words, focusing on one or two important things wouldn't help. The neglected issues would continue to cause problems that may hurt any other work done.
When things like this happen, it's always said to get a second opinion. I've heard that some dentists are more aggressive than others in what they say needs to be fixed, and obviously there's pricing that can change from dentist to dentist. I also took the time to google the dentist I had visited and check out reviews. I saw that there were a good number of complaints for mistakes, or doing work that other clients had later been told by other dentists wasn't required and shouldn't have been done. There were also a fair number of good comments too. Knowing that businesses have now turned to paying for good reviews as a practice, it didn't bring me any peace of mind.
The second dentist I went to also did an exam. A few of the problems were similar, but he found several more cavities than the first dentist did. I was also told I needed a root canal on one of my teeth, something the first dentist had not mentioned. Again, I get a breakdown of work needed and a bill, which was now a few thousand dollars higher than the first dentist had quoted. His breakdown failed to mention several of the teeth containing cavities from my first dental visit. It did included some new ones though. The reviews online weren't much different, a good mix of complaints and praises similar to the first dentist.
Now I was utterly confused. Obviously one, or even both, dentists weren't being completely honest. I didn't know which one to trust, and because dental is so expensive I didn't want to waste money on unneeded work. The only thing I could think of to do was seek a third opinion. That would surely confirm which of the first two dentists I could trust.
If you thought this solution solved the problem you would be wrong. Different problems were pointed out, and there was a mix of problems that matched a combination of the first and second dental visits. In other words, three dentists gave me three different answers with different prices. It was enough to make me scream.
I was now more confused than when I first started and began attempting to look up ways to find out how to tell if a dentist was telling the truth. This was almost a pointless search. It was hard to understand some areas of the articles without being an actual dentist, and most were so vague with their answers it didn't matter. What I did find though is that my problem wasn't out of the ordinary. CBCNews Canada ran an article a few years back finding similar abuses in the dental industry.
Not long after, I came across another article by William Ecenbarger that appeared in Reader's Digest. He had attempted a similar experiment in the United States. After getting his own dentist, and a panel with no financial interest, to examine his teeth he traveled the country to see the consistency and fairness of American dentistry. His findings were just as bad, if not worse, than what came from the Canadian report. You can read his article and the results here.
So now I'm as lost as ever. It seems that those who we are supposed to trust with our mouths have shown that they're not so trustworthy after all. It might be one thing if this was a product we weren't sure about. We've all been ripped off at some point by such scams. But we should be able to trust our dentist to be honest with us. A person's oral hygiene can have a huge effect on their health, not to mention how expensive it is to go to the dentist these days.
Now, instead of going to the dentist to get work done I find myself avoiding them. It's not because I'm afraid of the visit as some people are, but because when I don't know who to trust with my health it's far easier for me to sit in fear and do nothing while things get worse. It raises the question for everyone though, is your dentist ripping you off? For myself, it seems he very well might be.