Secret #1: Your dentist sees you as a profit center.
Dentistry is a private business and just like any other, its main purpose is to generate revenue. Unfortunately, many dentists have shifted beyond focusing solely on delivering necessary patient care to finding ways to maximize profits.
So what exactly drives a dentist whose first obligation is to care for their patients, to put profits first? Well, to begin with, it cost a minimum of $500,000 to purchase a private dental practice. And, once a dentist has their own private practice, they have to then pay the high cost associated with running a modern dental office. Rent, staff salaries, and costly equipment are just a few of the contributing factors that influence your local dentists’ ambition to make more money off the treatment they provide you.
A tale-tale sign of a dentist who focuses on profit over the delivery of necessary patient care is one who is frequently over-scheduled and runs late for appointments.
Secret #2: You pay for your dentist’s liability insurance, overhead, and dental school bills.
Would it surprise you to know that up to 80% of what a patient pays for treatment actually goes toward paying the dentists’ business bills? That means your local dentist typically takes home as little as 20 cents for every dollar of dental treatment
they provide! So that inflated $20,000 bill for dental crowns you were just handed by the receptionist is going to cover his or her overhead costs and dental school debt!
Overhead expenses such as liability insurance, dental supplies, rent, utilities, taxes, and staff salaries all contribute to the extensive cost of running a dental practice. On top of that, dentists are often faced with paying off enormous educational debt. Dental school is extremely expensive and yearly tuition can reach as high as $100,000 per year. It is not uncommon for new dentists to be deeply in debt with student loans, often to the tune of at least $250,000 when they graduate.
Secret #3: Dental fraud is much more common than you think.
We expect the person we are trusting with our oral health to be honest. Unfortunately, our nation is plagued yearly with dental frauds. The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimates tens of billions of dollars are lost every year to health care fraud and this includes the dental industry.
One common fraudulent dental practice is known as “upcoding”, or inflating insurance claims. This means a dentist will bill an insurance company using a different, more costly procedure code than the one actually performed.
Examples of this include charging using the code for a more complex tooth extraction when a simple one was performed, or billing with the code for a deep cleaning when only a routine one was done. Some dentist will even submit codes for dental care that the patient NEVER received.
Additionally, a dentist might submit multiple claims for a single procedure, breaking it down into components, which can be billed for more, rather than using a single, complete code to bill the procedure. This leaves the patient exposed financially for owing even more money if their benefits are maxed out as a result of fraudulent billing.
Other dental scams include prescribing worthless treatment that the patient doesn’t need or even having staff like dental assistants, perform procedures that only the dentist is licensed to perform yet still billing the insurance company as though the dentist actually completed the work.
Secret #4: Creative diagnosis and prescribing more treatment than is necessary happens a lot.
Yes, creative diagnosing is a real thing, so real in fact that even the American Dental Association (ADA) is talking about it. Creative diagnosing occurs when dentists knowingly and deliberately recommend more treatment than necessary, in order to charge higher fees for service.
Many American dentists face financial pressures and threats to their bottom line. In response to these issues, an increase in the skill of what is commonly called ‘creative diagnosis’ has been on the rise. Our dentists in Mexico who treat many American patients estimates that somewhere around 15 out of every 20 patients they see are recommended significant more treatment by their American dentist than is needed.
What does this mean for you, the patient? Well, not only may your out-of-pocket costs be higher but also you may be forced to undergo additional uncomfortable treatment that isn’t necessary.
Secret #5: Dentists rarely agree on treatment and this is reflected in your treatment plan estimate.
There is a well-known saying in dentistry, “If you show 10 dentists the same x-rays, you’ll get 11 different dental plans”. Unfortunately, this means patients are often faced with a wide range treatment plans with quotes for recommended care that can vary up to tens of thousands of dollars.
William Ecenbarger’s article, “How Dentists Rip Us Off” reveals his personal quest for finding out just how different dentist opinions vary and, how this impacts a patient’ pockets. Ecenbarger visited 50 different dentists in 28 states for a dental examination, to find out how wide the variety of diagnoses, treatment plans, and fees could be. Before beginning his study, he was examined by a dentist he had known for many years and trusted. This dentist told him that he only needed $500 worth of work done, for one dental crown. Additionally, a panel of dentists who were aware of his research said that his dental health was good and that at most he needed two crowns that would cost no more than $1,500 total.
Unfortunately, as Ecenbarger continued in his study he received numerous inflated quotes and claims of his needing drastic dental work. Examples include $2,555, $3,110, $8,347, $11,282, $13,440, and $19,402. The highest quote he received was from a dentist with a practice on New York’s prestigious Park Avenue: $29,850, for veneers on six lower front teeth, and 21 crowns!
What does this mean for you, the patient? Get a second opinion on the treatment being prescribed, then shop around, and cost-compare dental treatment options.
Secret #6: There are cheaper options across the border in Mexico.
This is perhaps the biggest secret your local dentist doesn’t want you to know. For decades, Americans have been crossing the border to Mexico to save money on their dental care. Your local dentist may claim that the quality of care is not equal but research proves this to be untrue. According to a report commissioned by Families U.S.A., a Washington advocacy group for health-care issues, “About 90 percent of Americans feel the dental care they had received in Mexico had been good or excellent.” That is actually BETTER than the results for dental care received in the US in the same survey.
So the quality is there, what about the cost savings? Well, a dentist in Mexico typically charges 50-80% LESS than U.S. dentists for the same procedure and material. Imagine paying $425 for a dental crown instead of $1200 or $250 for a root canal instead of $1200. Often times, the cost for the same treatment in Mexico will still be LESS than if you have some kind of dental insurance! For patients needing major work, this equates to saving thousands of dollars.
So what’s the bottom line? Proper dental care is necessary to live a healthy, long life but this doesn’t mean you should have to pay for treatment that isn’t necessary or even that is fraudulently billed to your insurance. Be an informed consumer. Ask your dentist lots of questions. Look over your bills carefully. Make sure you clearly understand what treatment they are prescribing. Get a second or even a third opinion. Finally, look at affordable alternatives like our vetted quality dental clinics in Mexico.