A $140 lesson from a dentist

If I have trusted my co-worker's recommendations from the beginning, I'd have never gone to this dentist. Since there are not that many dentists in the downtown area, I was lured into the convenience. And hence this was the lesson I learned:

A few weeks ago, I had a dentist appointment. While the staff was cleaning my teeth, the staff told me I should get a replacement of an amalgam (silver) filling to resin (tooth-colored) filling on a molar. She said my dental insurance plan would pay for it. Later on, the dentist found out I had two more cavities in the other two molars.

So I scheduled another appointment to have my fillings done. Before the dentist came to the room, the staff asked me to sign on the treatment print-out. I thought that's how much I agreed to pay and hence I signed it. From the print-out, I only had to pay $78 for three tooth-colored fillings and I thought the price was reasonable.

Last week, I received a bill from the dentist office and I was billed for another $140! From my company insurance website, I found out the plan only cover the silver fillings on molars. And hence I have to pay extra to cover the difference.

Then I pulled out the copy that I signed on the day of my appointment. When I read the fine prints carefully this time, I found out the amount I paid wasn't the final cost, it's only the estimate and I may need to pay more.

Of course I felt angry, misinformed and foolish. I couldn't believe the information provide from the dentist was not the 'whole story'. I was not even given the option to choose the silver fillings! Shouldn't it be the dentist or his staff's job to inform the patient of all the possible options and how much it exactly costs?

If the estimate of the treatment is 3 times lower than the real cost the patient is going to pay, I wonder how professional the billing staff are in the dental office.

How could they not know how much the insurance will pay or will not pay (the dentist has been in business for 20+ years)?

I called the dentist office and complained about it. The staff said she would call me back and I'm still waiting for the call.

So here are my lessons learned:

1. Read the fine prints of anything I signed beforehand.

2. Knowing the estimate of the cost is not enough, I need to know the final, exact cost.

3. Take other people's advice as a grain of salt. (I can't underestimate the influence of self-interest.)

4. Make my own judgment call. (I can't be lazy in this area anymore.)

5. Due diligence- check with my insurance company, don't just rely on the one-sided estimate from the dental office.

6. Really, I have to learn how to stand up for myself and confront with people when necessary.

Because of this happening, I won't go to this dentist anymore. And probably I'll tell this story to all of my co-workers too. I might even write a review of my not-so-happy experience on a dentist review site.

By taking advantage of a patient this way, the dentist generates $140 more this month. To me, his reputation in my mind is totally gone.

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." by Warren Buffett.

P.S. I don't know how many people shared similar experiences that I had, but I know I'm not alone. If you ever came across similar situations with this dentist, leave a comment here. Hopefully this post will help other people to make a wise decision of choosing the right dentist for them. Thanks!

P.P.S. I wrote a review of this dentist on a dentist review site, but the review was not being posted.

Updates on 9/29/2007: Apparently someone who knew this dentist or maybe the dentist himself saw my posting. He/she wrote such a long comment explaining why I shouldn't be complaining this issue. He/she even accused me of slandering this dentist's reputation. Well, if the dentist really cares about what people said about him so much on the web, he should have treated the patient with more respect.

You know what, fine, I'll take off your name.

This dentist shall remain nameless in this posting becuase some people just cannot handle the truth when they see it.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Call your CC card to complaint this, ask for CHARGEBACK if possible. Chances to get back money if you are using AMEX/Discover/Citibank, as these CC card companies have a very stong chargeback team.
Bear in mind, it will take time to get every thing settled. Email is the best way. Or $140 might not worth for you, since your pay is really HIGH:P
If you are using USbank, just take it as a $140 donation to the dentist.With the $140, he/she might be able to buy his/hers children a nice toys, and indirectly, u make a child or even children H@PPY!

Chat with u via msn, tk

Anonymous said...

I am amazed by the ignorance our population has on the insurance industry. We live in an age where people view insurance as "coverage". There are over 1000 different insurance companies with multiple plans based on what YOUR employer is willing to pay for a premium for you, the employee. In the 1950's dental insurance had the same annual maximum - at the rate of inflation today, you would need 5 times as much coverage. But yet your premiums continue to increase every year -Let me guess, you pay a small portion of your dental insurance premium but you are still complaining about an estimate you were responsible for. Somehow, you have turned your displaced aggravation on someone other than holding yourself accountable for your actions and in the meantime have slandered someone's name. Really, I think you need to confront people less and hold up the mirror. Reasonable people don't set up a blog to complain about others and then state they need to be more confrontational. Did you get the outcome you expected from posting a blog? Why not follow rule #6 and get some resolution so you don't sit with this feeling that people are out to get you. Good luck to you - It sounds like you may need it. By the way, you didn't really want to hear others comments truly - just people who would agree with you. That is why you are still not allowing an open forum on this subject and screening people's responses and posting the one's you want to. Why not try taking a gratitude stance instead of an attitude stance and be happy that you, unlike many other Americans don't even have dental insurance to cover any treatments.