And I ran, I ran so far away…
Something you could say about me is that I have pretty nice teeth. I never had braces, and there are few small gaps and one tooth that is a little crooked, but it all sort of comes together as a decent, reasonable whole.
Sure, I wouldn’t mind if they were a little whiter, but other than that, they are pretty nice. I had two tiny little cavities when I was 12 years old and nothing else, ever. In fact, dentists have often commented on how nice my teeth are and they can tell that I had flouride treatments as a kid.
Recently, my husband’s health insurance changed to a different carrier and it included dental as part of the health package. We thought that sounded great, so I dropped my dental coverage through my work. Then I procrastinated when I found out that my dentist didn’t take this new insurance. I finally decided it was time and checked the list of dentist on the insurer’s website. I was disappointed – most were not accepting new patients. The only option for me was Aspen Dental, a chain of dental offices with a location in my town.
I called for an appointment and they said that they like to schedule you for a new patient consultation before they do a cleaning so I made an appointment for that back in October. The inside of the office was well appointed and modern. The waiting room was comfortable enough with a flat screen TV, which was good since I ended up spending quite a bit of time there. When I was finally called in, a dental assistant took me for x-rays. And more x-rays. And when she was done with that, a few more x-rays. I don’t think I had this many x-rays when I had my wisdom teeth out, the only major mouth procedure I’ve ever had done. And some of these x-rays, holy moly, they freaking hurt!
Finally, I was led into a treatment room, where another flat screen displayed digital images of my 726 different x-rays. A dentist came into the room, briefly glanced at the x-rays and even more briefly glanced in my mouth. He said that I needed a special deep cleaning and did I have time for that tonight. I asked how long it was going to take, and he said, well, let’s have you speak to our business office first so they can tell you what your insurance will cover or not.
So, it was back to the waiting room for me, where the flat screen TV was now replaying the same clip from the CBS Morning Show it was showing 20 minutes ago. Eventually, I was called back in to a cubicle where another staff person went over my “treatment plan” and my cost estimate. My out-of-pocket? $426! After I got back up off the floor and picked up my jaw, the staff person explained that some of the items on this list were optional, like the $80 electric toothbrush and the $20 flouride rinse to bring home. So, really, it’s only $326! What a bargain, right?
I questioned this deep cleaning – it was listed on my treatment as a “full mouth debridement” which sounded rather unpleasant, and was completely uncovered by my insurance. This part of the treatment didn’t even include a basic polish. I had never been told I needed anything beyond a basic cleaning, and I have good teeth! Why do I need this?
A hygienist was brought over to explain to me why I couldn’t just skip this debridement and get a regular cleaning. She said the dentist said I have “the beginning of pocketing” which is a sign of gingivitis, the beginnings of gum disease. And getting this debridement is the only thing to help that and they won’t consider just doing a regular cleaning until I get this done. I said I’d think about it.
The next day, I talked to friends about my experience. They asked me what my pocket depth was. I said they didn’t tell me that, and the dentist hadn’t looked inside my mouth long enough to measure anything. I did some research online and got educated about debridement and pockets and gingivitis. I called Aspen Dental back to ask more about it. I wanted to know how long this was going to take and if there was any anesthesia involved, because one friend who had a deep scaling procedure had novacaine in his gums throughout the procedure. They said it would take about an hour and there was no anesthesia. I just couldn’t believe there was an hour’s worth of work in my mouth without anesthesia. I said no thanks. Then I ran and never turned back.
Luckily, it was open enrollment time at work. I signed back up for dental and made an appointment with my old dentist. I went to that appointment this week and told them about my experience at Aspen Dental. My hygienist told me that she had another patient, a young girl in her 20’s, who had also gone there and was also told she needed a full mouth debridement. She, however, didn’t run. She got the treatment and said her entire mouth ached for a solid week after.
My hygienist asked me what reason they gave for me having this treatment. I told her they said I had the beginning of pocketing. She laughed. She showed me the instrument that use to measure pockets. It is a probe with a plastic or rubber tip. The end of the tip is green, maybe 1/8″ – 1/4″ long. Beyond the green there are red and white lines. They place this probe in any pockets between your tooth and gum. If any of the green area is still visible, your gums are fine. Beyond the green, they measure with the white and red lines and this is the stage where gum disease begins. Why did my hygienist laugh? Because she could not put the probe into my gums at all.
I have no pocketing at all and no signs of gingivitis or gum disease. I told you I have good teeth.
But these shysters at Aspen Dental wanted to scrape the hell out of my perfectly healthy teeth and gums and charge me exorbitantly for the pleasure. So, tell your friends – unless they particularly enjoy a good deep scraping of both their mouths and wallets – to stay away from Aspen Dental.