After a five year hiatus from going to the dentist my friend Natalie finally made an appointment. She had decided it was time due to sensitivity on the lower right and her teeth weren’t looking as bright as they once did. She for sure thought there was a cavity and was very nervous about going. I was very proud of her for taking such a scary step and like any good dental friend gave her a rough idea of what to expect.
Five years is a long time to go without. I had already prepared her for the doctor exam and x-rays the office would need to responsibly assess her current oral health condition. I thought it possible that multiple cleanings might be needed to get her gums back into good shape, which happened. What I didn’t prepare her for was the bill for optional localized antibiotic treatment exceeding $400.00.
At this point, I asked her to review with me the information she was given by her new dentist. $400.00 worth of localized antibiotic treatment sounded very “aggressive” to me. We dental professionals use this modality to treat localized periodontal pocketing or infection for a few teeth at the most. And at $30-$60 per site, that sounded like a lot of teeth.
I asked her if she remembered her probing or pocket depths (this is where the hygienist measures the gums and calls out numbers) and she thought she had two 5mm sites and a few 4mm sites (1-3 mm is normal, higher numbers indicate gum problems) . This sounded appropriate with the large lapse in time between dental visits. She had moderate gingivitis which could have been remedied with just the cleanings. No medicaments needed. I think most dental professionals would agree Natalie had been taken advantage of.
Needless to say Natalie did not return to that office, but a year later tried a different dental office. Learning a great deal from the last experience, she was confident and fearless going forward. When I inquired about the new office, she said it was fine but it felt like they didn’t do anything. After a few quick questions about the appointment, I learned the cleaning lasted 15 minutes and was done with a rubber cup and paste. No instruments, no measurements, no doctor.
The last cleaning consisted of four appointments and an “aggressive” amount of localized antibiotic and then her next attempt at being a good dental patient turned out to be a cleaning sufficient for a toddler. Either way, she did not receive fair treatment financially or procedurally.
I just felt awful for her and I know she is not the only one who has had to deal with this confusion. People get taken advantage of more often than I would like to admit because it casts an ugly cloud over dentistry. My point to all this is, I hate when this happens to everyday folk, so below is brief guide to the different types of procedures hygienists do, what they basically entail and what you can expect:
After a five year hiatus from going to the dentist my friend Natalie finally made an appointment. She had decided it was time due to sensitivity on the lower right and her teeth weren’t looking as bright as they once did. She for sure thought there was a cavity and was very nervous about going. […]Read More
Late one evening while finishing up at the office, one of my patients stopped by my room to seek some information. She was appointed for some crown work in the near future but didn’t know what kind of crown she was getting. I looked at the chart and told her what the doctor was doing. […]Read More