Here’s Why I Left My Dentist

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Kiera Butler manages to punch one of my buttons today in a piece about the growing problem of “creative diagnosis” in dentistry:

Upselling in dentistry isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s having a moment….A generation ago, newly hatched dentists would join established practices as modestly paid associates, with the promise of eventually becoming partners. But these days, with dentists retiring later, there’s less turnover in private practice. Instead, more and more young dentists are taking jobs with chains, many of which set revenue quotas for practitioners.

Some years ago, my local dentist was purchased by a chain operation. For a while, nothing seemed to change. But then things did. Was it the recession? Was the chain doing poorly and needed more revenue? Did they hire a new CEO? I’ll never know. What I do know is that over time I got more and more skeptical that their recommendations were based purely on best practices. Suddenly I needed lots of fillings replaced. I needed special antibiotic treatments that my insurance didn’t cover. I should be coming in every three months, not every six months. And sitting in the waiting room, I frequently overheard conversations that sounded more like they came from a stall in a Turkish bazaar than from a medical office in Southern California.

So I finally left and switched to a dentist recommended by a friend. No more antibiotics. My gums seemed to have been miraculously cured. Coming in twice a year was just fine.

Was my old dentist really pushing treatments that I didn’t need? I’ll never know with certainty. But it sure felt like it, and I simply lost confidence in them. It felt like the place was being run by the finance department, not by a bunch of doctors. Caveat emptor.

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