You have a big reason to smile when you go to your dentist for a cleaning and he tells you that your teeth are just fine and you don’t need any work done. Whew! But what about those times when the dentist does find some issues and you’re looking at an expensive list of procedures he is recommending that you definitely did not budget for?
It’s normal to wonder whether these procedures are truly needed. Is your dentist correctly diagnosing what dental work needs to be done? Is he being straight or is he just looking for an opportunity to make a few bucks off you.While the majority of dentists are reputable, there are always a few bad apples. In these tough economic times, the last thing you or your family needs is to fall prey to over-treatment by your dentist.
There are questions that you can ask and other things you can do to avoid unnecessary dental work.
1. Make Sure that the Dentist Can Show You What Needs to be Done and Can Explain It
As in our blog Do I Really Need a Crown: 5 Things You Should Ask, the first step is SHOW ME. Most problems with your teeth can be seen with the proper tools. It is very reasonable for you to ask your dentist to show you exactly what is wrong using mirrors and x-rays. Intra-oral cameras are also a great way for your dentist to show you what is going on.
Beware if the dentist passes you off to the office manager or finance person to talk about the the cost of an expensive procedure. This person’s job is to help you with payment plans or any discounts plans.
But you should be completely comfortable about what the dentist is recommending before you end up in the finance person’s office asking them questions that the dentist should be answering. This happens more commonly in larger, busier, practices. Make sure you get as much of the dentist’s time and expertise that you need.
2. Before Agreeing to a Plan, Ask Do I NEED This Treatment
You would hope that your dentist would only be recommending procedures that are needed. However, often times treatment can be phased in over time. Your dentist should be able to give you options rather than pressuring you into doing it all at once.
He should be able to help you distinguish problems that need immediate attention versus those that are less urgent. However, have him explain so that you are very clear on the consequences of delaying treatment.
You should also ask if there are any alternative forms of treatment and, finally, ask your dentist which treatment they would choose if it were them.
3. Get to Know Your Dentist
Dentistry is a very competitive field and, as a result, there are a lot of discounts available to lure in new patients. (At Sage, we offer a few ourselves.) However, if you try to save money by taking advantage of a different dentist’s new patient discount or Groupon offer every six months, you will be at a disadvantage when you really do need some major work done.
When you have been going to one dentist for all of you and your family’s routine services, then when it comes time for a more major procedure, chances are you will feel more confident and comfortable.
When you do see a new dentist, there are a couple of red flags to watch out for. Be wary if the diagnosis falls dramatically outside the norm of your dental history. For example, perhaps you had been going to your previous dentist regularly and had a history of little to no cavities. Then, when you see the new dentist, he recommends a lot of fillings or crowns. Definitely a sign to be cautious.
It can also be a concern if he talks about the work you have previously had done being of lesser quality. This can be a strategy to convince you that you need more treatment.
4. Get a Second Opinion
This is important to do any time you are told that you need extensive work. As suggested in step two, when a dentist proposes treatment, ask questions so that you have a clear idea of why the treatment was suggested. If you still have good reasons to doubt the recommendation, get a second opinion.
Getting a second set of eyes on an issue can help you feel better about going forward with a treatment plan.
5. Ask About Their Treatment Philosophy
Dentists vary in the way they approach their work. They are either aggressive, conservative or somewhere in between in terms of their treatment recommendations. Ideally, you should take the time to talk to the dentist about your goals for your teeth and your dental health. Make sure that his or her treatment philosophy will actually allow you to achieve your goals.
A dentist who is very aggressive in his treatment planning may fit well with a patient that has the desire and the budget to make their teeth as close to perfect as possible. Other patients would be better off with a dentist who has more of a wait and see approach.
At Sage Dental, we are comprehensive in our approach to dental treatment, but we are also firmly committed to never over-treating our patients.
Please contact us for a free consultation.