Your dentist may be ripping you off. Here’s how to avoid that!


There’s an invisible problem in dentistry: some dentists using “creative diagnosis” to perform unnecessary work in the interest of making extra money.

Due to a few different factors — a lack of oversight, rising debt incurred during dental school, and the rise of quota-driven corporate dental chains — there’s a decent chance that you might visit a dentist who’s making decisions based on profit, not the work you really need.

1) You probably don’t need all your fillings ripped out and replaced

Oftentimes, someone visiting a new (and unscrupulous) dentist will be told that he or she needs a ton of work done. Frequently, this involves ripping out all existing fillings and replacing them with new ones.

But the dentists I interviewed told me that you should doubt any new dentist that prescribes a ton of work, unless you’re going in due to pain. And though fillings do crack and decay over time, you rarely need all of them replaced at once. Some will claim that old silver fillings need to be removed for safety reasons — specifically, because they leech mercury — but that idea is a total myth.

2) Beware practices that offer deals to get you in the door

The dental practices that advertise heavily and offer deals — like a free cleaning or free whitening — often do so simply to get you in the door, so they can prescribe you a big treatment plan for work you may or may not need. Disproportionately, they’re corporate-owned, national chains.

“These big chains are kind of dental mills,” Mindy Weinman, a Buffalo dentist and dental school professor. “They’re the ones that give you the free cleaning, and the free exam, then they tell you that you need $3,000 worth of dental work.”

Ultimately, it’s usually cheaper to get a cleaning or whitening from a practice that doesn’t offer deals — so you’re more likely to just pay for what you need, and nothing else. Most of the dentists I interviewed recommended finding a dentist through word-of-mouth, rather than relying on advertisements.


Your dentist may be ripping you off. Here's how to avoid that.

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