How often do you visit the dentist for preventive care? Since graduating college, I’ve been getting regular check-ups and cleanings twice each year. I’ve seen the results of neglect, and I have no desire to lose my teeth any time soon. I’ve also seen results of bad dental work, so it’s imperative not only to visit a dentist but to find one who comes recommended.
I have no training in dentistry, so I am left to trust the recommendations of the professional. Dentists are businesspeople, so part of their motivation should be to ensure patients are happy with their treatment and return. Just like any other business, there are some who make recommendations based not on what is necessary but on what will result in bigger spending for the customer.
1. Get a second opinion for any major expenditure. If your dentist is suggesting a root canal as a treatment for a cavity, you might want to shop around by visiting other recommended dentists.
2. Find a dentist that accepts your insurance. My dentist’s office is not a participant in any insurance plan. That means they are free to charge more than the negotiated rate a plan dentist might charge. While they submit my charges to the insurance company, I am responsible for any amount not covered. I could save some money by finding a dentist who accepts my insurance, but I prefer to stay with the same dentist I’ve been visiting for about ten years, and my insurance usually covers almost all of the cost.
3. Consider whether you need every recommended service. Insurance companies generally don’t pay for fluoride treatments for adults, for example. If your teeth and gums are in great condition, fluoride may be an unnecessary expense. Some dentists are more aggressive than others and are willing to suggest treatments at the first sign of a problem. Don’t be quick to dismiss treatment, but don’t be afraid to ask about other options.
In addition to improving your health, taking care of your teeth also improves your appearance. In today’s economy, your appearance could be the difference between getting a job after an interview and not getting called back in. It’s unfortunate, but appearance plays a role both in conscious and subconscious impressions.
With a quick search, it’s easy to find horror stories about dentists who suggest unnecessary treatments. One study by Readers’ Digest in Canada shows how 16 different dentists offered the same individual 16 different interpretations of a patient’s situation. Patients without a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree don’t have the training to analyze problems and must rely on the professional.
At least with auto mechanics, customers can have more than a basic knowledge of their own vehicle and with some focus can determine when professionals might be attempting to take advantage of their situations.
Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published July 26, 2010.