Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dental horror averted

I went to the same dentist for decades-- Dr. Khanchalian, a really good guy. His office is cozy and homey, with cross stitched signs that say things like, "'Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.' -Ps. 81:10".

But then I switched insurance and had to get a new dentist, one randomly assigned by Safeguard. Last month I walked into the new guy's waiting room for the first time. I decided at once to switch dentists again as soon as this appointment was over.

It was the raunchy morning show playing on the TV that offended me, but I also had a general bad vibe. Still, I figured I'd get my teeth cleaned before severing my relationship with the place. When they called me in, a nice girl took my x-rays and then a young dentist came in and said many things to me, all of which amounted to: "Your teeth are ugly and unhealthy, you and your last dentist have messed them up, but lucky you, you've come to us and we'll fix everything. You just need three fillings and some mini-veneers to cover those unsightly roots peeking out above your gums!" This man actually told me that my three new cavities had probably been started by Dr. Khanchalian carelessly knocking little holes in them while drilling adjacent teeth. It was a ridiculous story and I had the distinct impression that he was lying to me (he got nervous and hesitant when I asked a few innocent questions). I did believe him about the cavities' existence, though, because he pointed to spots on my x-rays. I've been very cavity-prone in the past, though it's been years since I developed one.

The young dentist sent me off to a man who would "develop a treatment plan" with me and discuss the financial and insurance arrangements. That guy told me which three teeth needed fillings and gave up the veneers idea when I showed no enthusiasm. I asked if I could have my teeth cleaned today, since they hadn't done anything else but take x-rays. "No, you need to have the fillings done before you can have your teeth cleaned," said the man. "Oh, really?" I asked. "Yeah, it's the policy of your insurance. Because you can't polish decay," he said impressively. It wasn't a big deal-- except I had a feeling that if I suddenly asked, "Which insurance do I have?" he wouldn't know. Anyway, it didn't make sense: with cavities the decay is inside the tooth.

So I smiled, let the receptionist make an appointment for a filling, walked out of the office, called back from home to cancel the appointment, and called Safeguard to see if it really is their policy to make dentists do fillings before cleaning. It's not. The man did lie to me.

Now I needed a new dentist to fill my three cavities; I wasn't going to let the sleazy place work on me! How to find someone trustworthy? I called Dr. Khanchalian's office to ask for a recommendation, but they didn't have one for Safeguard insurance. The secretary warned me that their dentists tend to make up for low insurance payments with "aggressive treatment practices," which was a nice way to say it.  I cast around for a bit and then hit on the idea of checking all the top-rated dentists on Dr. Oogle until I found one in the Safeguard network. That led me to a dentist with lots of patient recommendations and I switched to him.

I saw him today, bringing copies of the x-rays taken in in the other office. He was a middle-aged guy who told interesting stories while scraping plaque off my teeth and then said everything looked fine and he'd see me in six months.

But what about my three cavities? Non-existent! Apparently the other guys lied about that, too. Sad way to make a living, conning people and drilling their healthy teeth. No wonder most of the staff didn't look happy to be there.


Adrienne said...

The dentists will do as much work as they can to get every last dime out of the insurance company.

Meg said...

Good for you.

jinglehorse said...

That's terrible! Did you report the guy to anyone? He took an oath to do no harm, and I would think that trying to preform unnecessary medical procedures on you would count. I'm sure glad I have a good dentist.

Rachel Gray said...

I'm thinking of reporting him to Safeguard and the BBB-- the problem is proving it, and the new dental office doesn't seem to want to accuse the old. Still, I'll bet they've gotten other complaints and it might help to add mine.

The Cellarer said...

My wife had a similar dentist in Dublin. First visit he cleaned and polished her teeth. She had to go back for a filling 5 weeks later and he said he needed to re-clean and polish her teeth.

Chancer. I'm sure I've bumped my time in purgatory up significantly due to uncharitable thoughts at the the time...

Anonymous said...

What is new from Safeguard Dental? As any other insurance, they only steal your hard worked money and NEVER do their job. It is time to bring these thieves to justice