Do you really need a filling?

While there are many great dentist out there, Australian are being increasingly forced to wade through some surreal experiences to find one they can trust.

We regularly hear about radical price differences between dentists, and even more concerning is the growing trend of diagnosis differences between dentists. Stories such as this from ReadersDigest show that the cost varied from $1.197 to $29,850.

Paediatric dentist Jeffrey Camm has bought to light a disturbing new trend in dentistry called “Creative Diagnosis”. He says that although diagnosing tooth decay is subjective, the disparities has has seen are alarming.

Retired dentist Sheldon Stromberg says “It’s easy to take advantage of people (at the dentist). You’re basically given a blank check”.

To ensure that you are being given the proper treatment, patientsare recommended to ask for proof before any type of dental procedure, and if proof cannot be provided, always ask for a second opinion. 

Dr Lisa Chong from Pain Free Dentist Sydney

Dr Lisa Chong from Pain Free Dentist Sydney

Dr Lisa Chong, from Pain Free Dentist Sydney, said she began taking photos before all procedures to establish trust with clients. Dr Lisa found that by supplying patients with all the information before the procedure allowed them to make a more informed decisions about the type of care they would receive, which in turn resulted in a more successful practice as people preferred to visit a dentist they trusted.

“As a dentist you have people relying on your experience and diagnosis to give them the correct care at the correct price, and by being transparent with the client they feel safer with you, which is always a good thing to feel at the dentist” Dr Lisa said.

Some red flags to look out for to ensure you are getting the accurate care include:

Unnecessary Fillings: The diagnosis of nonexistent cavities is one of the most common scams in dentistry, and when you want to be getting a second opinion. If you have no pain and cant see any evidence of a problem, always get a second opinion.

Micro cavities: before a cavity becomes a cavity, it starts out as micro cavities. Dentists can treat them, and it is important to do so before they become larger cavities. Keep in mind it is important to get fissure sealants, especially in children, so try to get them checked before they become cavities. 

Excessive X-Rays: In the US, the ADA recommends healthy patients get one dental X-Ray every 2 years. Some dentists will pressure their clients into getting more, even so far as claiming it is illegal for them to treat a patient before doing an X-ray. Once again finding a dentistyou can trust is critical to getting the right information and the right treatment.

Quarterly Cleanings - To keep periodontal disease at bay,  dentists recommend a clean every 3 months. Most insurance only covers 2 cleanings per year, and so if your dentist is recommending monthly cleans, it might be a sign to steer clear of that clinic.

Specials and Deals: Most legitimate dentists advise against going to dentists that advertise specials such as free whitening or cleaning. Mindy Weinman, a professor of dentistry from Buffalo, US, says she would be “wary of the big advertisers, who have billboards all over the place and advertise on TV”. These practitioners are likely to favour sales over care.

Dentist Chains: The big dental chains are the typical culprits for using sales tactics. They ten to offer the free clean, or the free w whitening, and it is then that they “discover” that you actually need $5,000 worth of detail work. One dental chain was ordered to pay back $24 million after performing unnecessary procedures on children, sometimes without Anastasia and while under restraint.

When it comes down to it, a good dentist is the one you can trust. Do your research, but don't trust "Dr Google" -  dentists are specialists in their field, and no amount of desktop research compares to a conversation with a qualified dentist. Speak to friends and family, and make sure the dentist you choose has their goals aligned with your health, and not your wallet.