Avoiding Common Dental Scams

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Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

April 29, 2022

Going to the dentist can be a stressful experience, no matter what you have done. Trusting the health of your teeth to someone can be intimidating, especially if you have a traumatic experience in your past. If all dentists were ethical, responsible, and professional about their patients’ treatments and services, it would undoubtedly make it easier to entrust our care to them. Unfortunately, the profession is acquiring a reputation akin to used car salesmen or shady mechanics. It’s easy to see why; it’s a highly specialized set of skills, no one can check their work, and it’s a hassle to find a new one. Here are some common scams that unethical dentists have been known to attempt to deceive their patients with, and how to avoid them.

The Amalgam Replacement Scam

One of the most common scams unscrupulous dentists will try to deceive their patients is the idea that they need to have all of their existing amalgam fillings replaced with composite resin or other non-amalgam materials. The reasoning that they give for this is the concern that the amalgam fillings are leaching mercury into your body, where it is accumulating and slowly poisoning you. While it is true that amalgam fillings are composed of approximately 50% elemental mercury by weight, the fillings are stable enough that the amount of mercury released into the body is negligible and not harmful. Therefore, the Food and Drug Administration does not recommend removing amalgam fillings except in cases of documented extreme hypersensitivity to the amalgam material.

The Unbundling Scam

Another scam that unethical dentists commonly perpetrate is called unbundling. This is where they bill you for the individual services that would typically be grouped as a package. For example, a root canal is a complicated procedure with several steps but is billed as a single operation. Charging a patient or a patient’s insurance for each step individually, such as drilling, cleaning, filling, and capping would be to look for when protecting yourself against unbundling. Because dental procedures are all named and numbered, it’s easy for the billing department to swap out the bundled procedure for the bundle’s list of procedures. The American Dental Association considers unbundling fraudulent. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud says if you suspect you’ve become a victim of a billing scheme, let your insurance company know and contact your state fraud bureau.

The Unnecessary and Unperformed Treatment Scams

Another sad form of dental fraud that unscrupulous oral care providers will try to deceive their patients is providing unnecessary treatment or even charging them for work that was never done. They might point out cavities that have suddenly appeared, take more X-rays than they require, or insist that their new machine is essential for your dental health. They might throw unexpected procedural codes onto your bill or perform services that do nothing, like the shady mechanic changing your blinker fluid or changing the air in your tires. This is a common bullying tactic to minimize the details of a procedure and stress the urgency. If your dentist says that you suddenly need a procedure done, and gets upset when you protest, run, don’t walk, and get a second opinion. If the second dentist doesn’t point out the same problem, you know the first was trying to defraud you.

The Unlicensed Employee Scam

One of the most transparent scams is employing unlicensed “dentists” or assistants. Dental license requirements can vary from state to state, and it pays to make sure that the person who is going to be operating on you is, in fact, a currently licensed dentist in your area. Beware of ultra-low prices, and if there’s any doubt, it can’t hurt to verify a new potential dentist with the certification board in your area. An unlicensed scam artist could wreak havoc on your mouth if you don’t put in the time and effort to authenticate them. Also, just because a dentist is licensed does not mean they are skillful or a good fit for your needs. It can be a good idea to seek out recommendations from friends and family nearby or check unbiased reviews from former patients of any prospective dentist. 

As you can see, it’s critical to go into your dentist’s office with your eyes open and your mind aware. Staying well informed on dental practices, knowing where to find reviews, going over your billing with a fine-tooth comb and a critical eye, and being willing to speak up, question the authority of your dentist, and get a second opinion are all essential skills when getting any dental work done. It’s certainly a sad state of affairs when someone supposed to be a medical professional operates with a complete lack of integrity. Here at Good Samaritan Dental Implant Institute, we pride ourselves on transparency and honesty. We let our reputation speak for itself and the reviews of our satisfied customers.

Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

Hello there, great choice moving towards the personal dental health care you desire!

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