Western Dental Upsells Relentlessly, Then Pulls Dirty Trick With Billing

Ryan recently went to a clinic operated by Western Dental Centers, a franchise that operates in California, Arizona and Nevada, and now he regrets that decision. He writes that first he was forced to endure $800 worth of upsells while he was stuck in the chair, even though he was just going in for a cleaning. What happened with billing, though, was worse and may lead to lasting credit issues.

First off, when we went there we were assured our insurance covered 100 percent of our treatment. They had pre-authorization and everything, so they claimed. I had already decided to never return to this dentist after they put on heavy sales tactics to get me to buy a $300.00 night-time mouth guard and sign-up for $500.00 teeth whitening. I was literally a captive audience in the chair while different people came and showed me pamphlets and brochures on their services. I was just there for a cleaning!

So three months pass and I never thought about them again. So we are on vacation and my cell phone goes off at 7 am (PST) with an 866 number. I just ignore it because it is probably a telemarketer. The phone rings again at 9 am and then again at 11 am when I finally answer it. It is Western Dental telling me I owe $200.00. I said I was not aware, have never gotten a bill and asked that they let me call them when I get back from vacation. The guy gave me the 3rd degree and said I should just pay him half as my bill specified. Again I reiterated that I needed to contact my insurance company because I feel like there has been a mistake made and that I WAS ON VACATION. So I finally get off the phone and not an hour goes by when they start calling my wife’s phone. We repeat the story of how we will be home from vacation in only a few days. They would call another time that day and for the rest of our vacation they would call 5 – 6 times a day from 7 am till well into the afternoon. I finally got frustrated and told them to stop calling me, which is my right as a consumer. They still continued to call me relentlessly until I finally got home and checked our mail to find a bill. Come to find out the bill had a due date of July 20th, which they mailed on July 14th (the day we left), they started calling me 5 times a day on July 21st.

This is the most aggressive and down right dirty collection attempt I have ever experienced. I was harassed even after I explained I was on vacation and was not home to get the bill. To make matters worse, my insurance company had paid, they were attempting to double bill through some sort of “clerical error” as they explained to me.

I ask that your readers avoid Western Dental at all costs and to call your dental insurance to validate payment was made.

Comments

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  1. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I still remember what happened when my front teeth got removed. They stuck a needle in my arm, handed me some papers, I signed them, and I woke up at home. Apparently I was fully functional the whole time, able to sign my name, carry on conversations, give directions back to my house, etc… but not remember it.

    • selianth says:

      Most places won’t let you sign anything once they’ve given you any kind of drugs. Heck, my husband had eye surgery once, for which he was perfectly awake for, but they gave him a Xanax to help him relax a bit. The second he swallowed that pill he wasn’t allowed to make any decisions anymore.

    • haggis for the soul says:

      Did you check to see if you still had both of your kidneys?

  2. windycitygirl68 says:

    I can feel this man’s “pain”, as it were. I was on a dental plan that had no independent dentists, just giant group dental groups (mine was Aspen.) I went for a cleaning, was shown into the “consultation room” where I was handed a folder with pamphlets, the estimate for the work I needed (to the tune of $1,100) and a finance person came in to discuss those options. Oh, and I was offered a beverage of my choice. Needless to say, I handed them back their folder, refused their drink and ran out of there as quickly as possible. My advice to the OP – I called several independent dentists, told them I did not have insurance and was willing to pay for services out of my own pocket. The dentist I ended up going to said the only treatment I needed was one filling and a cleaning, and I paid the dentist $125 in cash – which they loved. Those group dental places need to be investigated – they are ripping off people and insurance companies left and right.

    • Conformist138 says:

      A filling and a cleaning for $125? I admit, I have long been under the impression that paying for dental care is beyond my means seeing as I can’t afford any kind of insurance whatsoever. Maybe I actually can get a missing filling replaced before the issue gets worse.

  3. Angus99 says:

    This issue of getting sales pitches while in the chair is obnoxious; my long time dentist sold his practice, and the guy that bought it does this crap from the moment you sit down. I’m looking for a new dentist, right now. What particularly irritates me is that I finished an adult Invisalign treatment (had wanted to do it for years – had braces as a kid, but never wore the retainer, so the teeth had moved a lot) with the original dentist literally just a few weeks before the new guy – and some of his upsell schtick seems to directly confict with what I just spent $5K over two years to fix.

    • Difdi says:

      So if you suspect your dentist might be one of those captive audience spammers, rehearse a sales spiel and bombard them right back.

  4. Tim says:

    My dentist is relatively corporate (large-ish practice, but not a chain with multiple locations). I’ve found that with me at least, she’s never tried to upsell. I know that they have nightguards, teeth whitening, implants, all the profitable products and services. And there are ads about it all over the office. But I’ve never been upsold (or attempted).

    I guess the closest was when she recommended I get fluoride treatment ($30 or so), which isn’t normal for adults. But this was shortly after she filled something like 8 or 10 cavities in my mouth.

  5. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I’ve had similar issues with dental insurance — it typically covers very little, can be very complicated, and doesn’t provide the layer of protection that health insurance does when dealing with in-network providers.

    If dental was free at my employer, I would probably use it but it isn’t. I find that it’s just easier to go to a small, local, one dentist practice and negotiate/pay cash at the time of service.

    • Jevia says:

      That’s what we do, primarily because the dental insurance my work offers is expensive and covers next to nothing. Why pay hundreds of dollars a year for something that covers at most 50% of the charges (and some not at all until you’ve bought the “insurance” for 2-3 years) and forces you into some dental office that is going to try and talk you into buying more services that aren’t covered at all? We just called around local dentists until we found one with reasonable prices.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        We must have had the same plans. Ours did exactly that — it was expensive, didn’t cover anything, hardly any practices accepted it, and we always wound up owing more than it paid.

      • TouchMyMonkey says:

        If there was ever a practical use for HSAs, this is it.

    • theycallmeGinger says:

      You’re probably getting a better deal than paying for dental insurance. Additionally, you could have a flexible spending account (FSA) to help cover costs. It takes a pre-determined (by you) amount out of your paycheck tax-free and you can use it to reimburse yourself when you have medical expenses. I do this regularly, though not for very much. However, when I knew I’d have to get a root canal, I stocked a bit more away to pay for it. It’s a great system and not enough people take advantage. There are some drawbacks (use it or lose it) but if you’re organized, it will pay off.

    • thewildboo says:

      I must have amazing dental insurance. For my husband and I together I pay no more than $200/year. Two cleanings a year (per person) are totally free, and then other work is something like 50% off.

  6. Skellbasher says:

    The company does sound like they’re scumbags, but I do have to nitpick one point.

    “I finally got frustrated and told them to stop calling me, which is my right as a consumer.”

    You can request they don’t call you all you want, but since you have done business with them, they can call you if they wish to.

    Now, in the context of collecting a debt, you can dispute the validity and request that they not call you, but that needs to be done in writing to hold up.

    • dg says:

      No they can’t call you after you tell them not to. Ask to be put on their “Internal Do Not Call List, and to be sent a copy of their Do Not Call Policy” – if they don’t put you on that list and don’t send you a copy of the policy, they’re in violation of an FTC rule and can get fined…

      • Skellbasher says:

        Which isn’t applicable here because it’s an attempt to collect a debt, therefore subject to FDCPA rules.

        • DieBretter says:

          The FDCPA doesn’t apply to “original creditor”. In this case, that’d be their own internal debt collectors. So, he can try claiming FDCPA until he’s blue in the face, chances are good that they’ll blow him off.

        • consumerfan says:

          The FDCPA says they’re still not allowed to call you continuously or at inconvenient times, such as whilst you’re on vacation.

  7. Murph1908 says:

    My family dentist growing up was a devout religious man. When he discovered I was majoring in Biology in college, with a focus on evolutonary biology, I was subject to a sermon while I was helpless in the chair, and I couldn’t counter argue because there were tools in my mouth.

    I didn’t go back.

    Though I do appreciate that I never knew how strongly he held to religion during the 18 years of seeing him before.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      Unbelievable. If you need a captive audience to try to convert people to your belief system, then the system can’t stand up on its own, and you should reconsider your beliefs.

      THIS is why I can’t stand fundamentalists. Believe what you want, don’t try to cram it down people’s throats (nearly literally, in this case).

      • jessjj347 says:

        Hi. One person’s need to have a “captive audience” does not somehow invalidate an entire religion.

        That is all.

      • PencilSharp says:

        Oh, boy. Religious debates on Consumerist are always a thrill… I’ll make two quickie points and book:

        1. The dentist in question here was a legalist with a brittle worldview. There are many of them, and they should be rightly shunned. In fact, as a Christian myself, I give all of you my permission to laugh in a brittle Christian’s face and walk away.

        2. Don’t condemn the concept of religion out of hand; humanism is religion, too.

        (ducks, covers & runs…)

        • TouchMyMonkey says:

          From a consumerist standpoint, what I really, really, really hate is when somebody feels he has to stick a Jesus fish on the side of his work van, or in his advertising, or on the front door of his establishment. What that says to me is, “I’m going to steal you blind, but you won’t notice when I’m doing it because I’m a Christian.” I try to avoid those people.

          A real Christian, IMO, doesn’t need to advertise that fact. In fact, I believe Jesus even said so himself in the New Testament.

  8. bhr says:

    finally got frustrated and told them to stop calling me, which is my right as a consumer

    Thats a common misconception. If this is a collection company working on behalf of your dentist their are rules about them contacting you, but if you provided them your cell number as the primary billing number they can continue to call you at that number, as long as its not before 8 or after 9.

    You have to notify them, in writing, to stop contacting you or they will continue to do so. The genie is out of the bottle on this number, but one way to get them to stop calling that number is to tell them that they are calling a work number, and you are not allowed to take personal calls on that number.

    Still, its bs that they are so aggressive, but know your actual rights and it will help you in the long run.

  9. ninabi says:

    I’d send a letter to the head of Western Dental explaining why you will not be returning.

    Peddling product in a dental office can be a red flag for other costly problems. New to a city years ago, I went to a dentist who tried to sell me an expensive electric toothbrush and and costly gum treatment (I go to the dentist regularly, have no gum issues) after his horrific proof that I had gum disease- putting the probe/pick under my gums and PULLING. As I sat in the chair holding a paper towel to my mouth to catch the blood, I told myself the guy was a touch off and to get a second opinion.

    Like the Western Dental office- the calls were relentless. It wasn’t about money owed, it was about getting me in for treatment! Quickly!

    My second opinion was a DDS who was the head of the dental society and he had plennnty to tell me about the first guy, none of it very good and included A Death In The Dental Chair.

    Ask around- ask people who they go to and like as a dentist to find somebody who will work for you. Ask people who have had big work done (root canals or crowns) and find out if the work has been holding up well. And check the licensing board, too.

    What a horrible situation with Western Dental- and to ruin a vacation with endless phone calls. Ugh.

    • Marshmelly says:

      “My second opinion was a DDS who was the head of the dental society and he had plennnty to tell me about the first guy, none of it very good and included A Death In The Dental Chair.”

      Wait…is that just an expression or did someone literally DIE while under this guy’s care? Why was this guy still practicing dentistry? Sounds like he should have been sued multiple times a long time ago. Its pretty awful that they have medical professionals like that still being allowed to practice and screw people over.

      • qualia says:

        Dentists use general anesthesia occasionally, in some practices. You can do general anesthesia perfectly and people will once in a while die. You can administer other drugs perfectly, people will die.

        Of course it’s always investigated, but if he’s practicing, he wasn’t found guilty of a huge wrongdoing, and may not have been found guilty for anything.

      • ninabi says:

        Yes, there was a death and sadly, it was a child. The man advertised his speciality was childrens’ dentistry, although he had no specialized training in that field. What happened was negligence- a foster child was taken in for dental work and they started the gas and then left the room. Nobody stayed with the little boy and didn’t check on him for awhile as they were in another room with another patient.

        The child was left unattended and he died. The incident was no secret- it was in the news and occurred several years prior to me moving to that particular city so I wouldn’t have been aware of it at the time I booked the appointment- but it was confusing and angering that he was still practicing on patients both big and small after such a horrific incident. Perhaps the loss of patients after the child died in his office made him more desperate for new business. At the very least he should have quit stating his specialty was children. He ended up surrendering his license in 1994, about 4 years after the incident occurred.

      • LLCisyouandme says:

        There are more confirmed cases of medical malpractice each year where the patient is severely impacted than there are suits against medical providers. OMG we need tort reform.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      I must say though that the Sonic tooth brushes are well worth the money. I had gum disease and got rid of it with a good cleaning and using the tooth brush.

    • ShruggingGalt says:

      Other dentists do that?

      I had the same thing happen to me – except that they were pushing “deep cleaning” which wasn’t covered by insurance.

      Left, found another dentist, and gee, I didn’t need a deep cleaning!

      Finding a GOOD local dentist is critical. One sign of a bad dentist – if they act like an assembly line….

  10. chiieddy says:

    I used to go to a chain dentist when I first moved to this area. I quickly learned I got better care by going to a private practice dentist in my town. They still try to up-sell you a bit on tooth whitening (which I did for my wedding on my own dime), but nothing drastic unless you ask about it or they see you eying the brochure.

    I found a similar experience with other health professionals, specifically vets. Our vet retired and the practice became a VCA. The up-sells became ridiculous, the problems on my older cat changed from visit to visit (if she had a kidney issue it wouldn’t suddenly not be there the next visit and suddenly be a heart murmur instead) and we’ve stopped going there, and switched to a non-chain practice.

    Overall, I found better care no matter what if you go local on services.

    • Hermia says:

      VCA is the worst. I had a very sick cat and went there because they had walk in hours on Saturdays. All they wanted to do was upsell me on various supplements and non-essential treatments to the tune of almost $2,000. When I refused and said I wanted to get a second opinion they said it was a pity that I didn’t care about my cat’s life, and that if I did I would spend the money. As it turns out my cat did have cancer, but it was inoperable and the treatments VCA suggested would not have helped, and in fact would probably have caused him more trauma. They didn’t care about my cat, they cared about the money. Thankfully I now have an independent vet who cares about both me and my surviving cat… I will NEVER go to a VCA clinic again.

      On the dentist front I have an independent one that does accept my insurance. Was hard to find but thankfully he does no upselling, is thorough and practical, and I am terrified of the day he retires. It’s hard to find good, practical dentists anymore.

  11. dg says:

    I believe that Continuing to call after you’ve told them not to is in violation of the FDCPA – might be worth a Google or two – then file some complaints with the right Fed agency as well as your State’s Atty General. And you may have a right of private civil suit as well – so keep track of your phone logs.

    Most places give Net 30 – or hell, at least Net 15 terms. Net 5 is kinda bizarro – check any paperwork you signed see what’s in there – you might have a breach of contract claim about that.

    As for the upsells – I had a Dentist that used to push all that extra crap. He even had a TV running in the waiting room on a loop with some never-ending stream of how wonderful all these different things were. Every time I’d go in the office, I’d just walk in, right up to the TV and turn it off. When they had the power button locked out, I’d unplug it. Never had anyone in the waiting room do anything but smile or give me a thumbs up…

    When we were in the chair, it was more upsells, etc. and then he’d talk about his Porsche… F’ that guy – we went to a different dentist, haven’t looked back…

    I agree though – being in the chair with tools in your mouth while someone pitches all kinds of crap to you is the epitome of sleeze…

    • bhr says:

      please either read the law or other comments before recommending contacting an AG or lawsuit, as both are completely out of bounds for the situation.

      • dg says:

        I said “I BELIEVE” and that the OP should google for the info. Even if he doesn’t have the right under the law, contacting the State AG isn’t a bad thing. It’s THOSE kind of questions and complaints that demonstrate the need to the AG for a change in the law.

  12. wellfleet says:

    Husband and I have insurance, went to eye doc to get a routine checkup and get new glasses for both of us. We each pick out nice frames knowing that our co-pay is $85 plus cost of frames. We sit down with some woman to go over the final billing, it’s more than $800. I ask her to explain every item she scribbled on the sheet of paper between us. As it became apparent, she didn’t even bother going through the upselling of special lenses, undercoating and unicorn powder, she just straight-up added everything to our bill. I work in sales, and used to work at BBY, so I don’t have an issue with upselling, if done right it can show the customer things they never considered but would appreciate. But just assuming that we’d write them a check for whatever amount and not question it, I was horrified. I haven’t been back.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I think some upsells are definitely worth it with glasses. I can’t imagine buying a pair that doesn’t come with anti reflective coating.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        I loathe the anti-glare coating! It seems to attract dust, dirt and oil to the point where I don’t care about glare/no glare, because I can’t see anyway unless I clean them constantly.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          Yeah, that’s definitely a trade off. They also scratch very easily.

          I still think it’s worth it, I just have to be careful about cleaning them and no more paper towel or shirt tail cleanings.

        • Kibit says:

          My Mom has the anti glare coating and her glasses are always so dusty. When she comes to visit she stays with us, so it is easy to compare the differences with our glasses since we are in he same environment. Her glasses with the coating are always dusty and constantly need to be cleaned and have more scratches on them then my glasses with out the coating and she takes much better care of her glasses than I do.

      • wellfleet says:

        I completely agree, I don’t mind the upselling, and I’d love to hear all about the extra features we can purchase, but sneaking those features onto a bill and assuming we want it all is like someone at BBY selling you a laptop and adding on the service plan without telling you.

  13. GameHen says:

    I was pretty upset at first about my dental choices under my insurance plan. There’s only a single “dental conglomerate” (Willamette Dental) in my area (Pacific NW) that my insurance will cover in-network. Fortunately they’ve been very professional for the most part. I did visit a dentist in one of their offices who got me into the chair with my mouth full of stuff and then spent the next hour tag-team berating me between himself and the hygenist about not smoking (I have never touched a cigarette in my life), never drinking sodas, flossing twice a day, etc..etc… And I have pretty decent teeth. I’ve never gone back to that office.

    Most recently, they’ve begun making sure that you consistently see the same dentist so you have a more personalized experience, I haven’t had to wait for my appointment more than 10 minutes, and they’re sending out survey forms to ask about your visit. I asked a couple years back about teeth whitening and the dentist suggested the stuff you can buy at Costco.

    I’ve had a couple treatments where I had to pay above what the insurance would cover and thus far (knock on wood) haven’t had any problems with their billing department. So all-in-all, I’ve been surprisingly happy with them.

  14. diasdiem says:

    Dealing with these people is like pulling teeth.

  15. jessjj347 says:

    The last time I went to the dentist, I was asked if I wanted to get teeth whitening. I thought it was weird, because it’s the first time it’s every happened. Guess it’s the new norm?

    • Tim says:

      I think teeth whitening is one of those services that’s very profitable for dentists, especially when compared with normal dental services. Same thing with selling products like electric toothbrushes and mouthwash.

  16. Etoiles says:

    I had a very similar problem with a dentist in NYC. The actual dentist was nice, patient, competent, etc. so a bunch of my co-workers and I all started going there. Then about six months later over a coffee break somehow the dentist came up, and suddenly it became very clear that the “clerical error” that resulted in extra or double-billing was something that had systematically happened to each and every one of us. (In my case, I went for a cleaning / check-up in mid-June, and eventually found myself being mailed notices that the insurance company had paid for my “December 18th” cleaning in addition to my June 19th one. I hadn’t lived in New York the December in question.)

    So we called the insurance company (since we all worked for the same place, we were all on the same one) and reported the guy’s practices. And changed dentists.

  17. Temescal says:

    Hmm… Is this where I get to say that I actually really like my current dentist, and his office personnel? I figured that the fact is rare enough that it was deserving of a post. :)

    • bhr says:

      I do to, but hes family, so I’m biased

    • selianth says:

      I LOVE my dentist. I hadn’t been in like 10 years, and when we moved to the area I finally got up the courage to make an appointment and go, and this guy was nothing but nice to me cause he could see how nervous and upset I was about it. He had the attitude of a concerned dad, and just wanted to help me fix the things that needed fixing, and only got stern with me when telling me to get my wisdom teeth out right away. One time I had an early morning appointment but my car wouldn’t start. When I called to reschedule, he actually sent one of the staff over to pick me up and they drove me home afterwards. He’s basically awesome.

  18. drburk says:

    Go to the office request your file and dispute the bill.

  19. Spider Mann says:

    Western Dental is the reason I now have to spend around $25k on dental bills. They ruined my teeth and were horrible to boot.

    It began when I was 17. I admit I enjoyed hard candy a bit much and needed a cleaning, but before I could get to a dentist (hey, grew up poor) one of my teeth broke from a bad onion ring. (something got deep fried that wasn’t supposed to be and my tooth took the fall.)

    My father had been a long haul trucker and had full Blue Cross/Blue Shield benefits with myself included. Dental was completely covered (a shocker, I know).

    I went in to get the broken tooth fixed and to have the cleaning done. On the phone they stated they accepted the insurance, blah blah blah. Got there and they refused to do anything without my father there to sign. I told them, and showed them on the paperwork, that the insurance is guaranteed and no signature is needed for work to be performed through the plan my father was paying for. They refused.

    I was a short time away from 18 so I dealt with the pain until then (they weren’t many options where I lived for dentists and the other options didn’t take Blue Cross/Blue Shield) and went back in. They still refused unless my father was there to sign. I showed them my driver’s license, proved I was of age, again proved he did not need to be there, and again they refused. After a bit of a row I called Blue Cross/Blue Shield from their office and had the idiots speak to them. They finally consented and pulled the tooth. Not repaired, as was agreed upon, but pulled. Yanked the damned thing right out.

    They also decided, while I was under and couldn’t give consent, that I didn’t need a cleaning but that I did need an unnecessary root canal on a tooth that didn’t need it, but that the root canaled tooth didn’t need a cap or crown.

    From there they just kept going with breaking other teeth, destroying others, etc. I sued and lost because it seems they got my consent on forms while under the influence of the knockout drugs. (I can’t be awake during the stuff, else it is bad. I found out later in life, during another surgery, that unless the proper dose is given to me I am quite awake when given that stuff, I am just not aware.) The judge saw it not as a case of under the influence and coercion, but someone being awake and cognizant enough to give consent.

    So yeah, Western Dental screwed up my teeth royally and I am still paying for it years later. I will be lucky to get out of this with half of my original teeth left and most likely implants or dentures and I am barely 30. So much for all that brushing, flossing, rinsing, and going to the dentist crap I, as a person who cares about oral hygiene, troubled myself with.

  20. cybrczch says:

    Happy with my company covered insurance – 2 cleanings a year covered 100%, 80% coverage on most common dental procedures. And the deductible is lower than the cost of the 2 cleanings.
    And my dentist is great, no upsells. He knows one of my coworkers so most of the non-dental realated chat is how she’s doing. And in the end, all I get is a tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush and floss when I’m done – haven’t had to buy any of those in 10 years now.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      A tube of toothpaste and a container of dental floss lasts you six months?

      • Tim says:

        Usually I get the tiny travel-sized tubes, so if the comment is talking about those, that’s even more amazing.

        And toothbrushes are only supposed to last six months.

      • OnePumpChump says:

        The quantity of toothpaste depicted in commercials is in the interest of the toothpaste manufacturer.

  21. Juhgail says:

    I had a really bad experience at a dentist. I was speakign to them about option to fix 2 small teeth in my mouth. While in the chair I was told that I could get Veneers, but they were $800 a tooth. I almost fell over ( I was just out of college then). So the girl looks down and sees Im wearing a diamond ring. She says “Well, you can get your husband to pay for it”.

    I replied :Im not married, and this ring is from my dead grandmother”.

    She shut up and walked out.

  22. evilpete says:

    Sue in small claims for the illegal phone calls after you requested they stop. Tyen Ask for further damages to pay for new vacation

  23. evilpete says:

    BTW: I find tearing pamphlets in half as theybare handed to you a good deterrent to being handed pamphlets.

  24. Dover says:

    You did report this to your insurance company and state’s AG, right?

  25. PerpetualStudent says:

    My school has their student dental plan through western dental. The general consensus is that it is useless and most try to avoid using it. Some use for emergency situations – but you have to call ahead of your emergency to get pre-approval. One guy referred to it as a payment deferment plan – you bill the insurance and then work on saving the money over the next few weeks for when they send you nearly the full bill.

    I’ve heard nothing but headaches from dealings with them.

    I pay out of pocket and stick with my family dentist- who doesn’t like western dental.

  26. wagflutah says:

    Oh the stuff you don’t want to know about how a typical dental office operates. I’ve been a dental hygienist for going on 26 years now. Keep in mind that dental offices are businesses that need to profit to survive. The business of “selling” dental services is not an option – it’s mandatory. While I don’t work on commission (I get paid a salary) the offices that pay their staff commissions tend to have a boat-load of up-sells, glossy brochures, fluoride treatments, nightguards, whitening treatments, hygiene products, etc.

    Of all the offices I’ve ever worked for – the worst for under-handed up-selling were the offices in which the dentist was “beloved by all”. A church-going man. A true Republican. Great “bedside” manner. The “only dentist who never hurt me”.

    There is probably not a single dentist office in the country that at least one staff member a day rolls his/her eyes behind the patients’ back (& behind the dentists too) after listening to the dentist explain why Mr. Smith NEEDS a specific dental procedure. “Needs” is so very objective in the dental world.

    But I digress….Western Dental is like most other dental offices – private or otherwise. Bill as much as you can to “maximize your insurance benefits” (read: find as much dental work to be done as possible to get the patients insurance money). If the patient doesn’t pay – keep sending billing statements then eventually send to a collection agency.

  27. DieBretter says:

    I’ve been reading a couple things where people suggest using the FDCPA to get the debt collectors to stop calling. That’s all fine and dandy, but remember that it doesn’t work with original creditors.

    He said himself that it was Western Dental calling him; if that’s the case there’s not too much he can do. If it’s not them calling, all the more power to him because he could probably get them under it for misrepresentation/deceit. He couldn’t, however, lay a claim on them for calling them after he told them not to because that require a written notification.

  28. maraa01 says:

    We went through this with our 18yr old son. Our poison of choice was Aspen Dental. My son needed to have a tooth pulled. In the process, they tried to convince us that he needed 2000 dollars worth or dental work. We declined, and when he was finished we paid the bill in full (we do not have any dental coverage). I walked out of the clinic with a slip that showed a 0 balance. About 6 months later the poor kid started getting letters from a collection agency saying that he owed 21 dollars. So, my son starts off life as an adult already having his credit dinged.

  29. ellemdee says:

    My dentist recently retired, but I’d never received even one upsell from him in 20+ years. The dentist that replaced him was another story. I went in for what was supposed to be my regularly scheduled cleaning and instead received a 2 hour sales pitch and instructions to come back another day for my cleaning (never mind that I made this cleaning appointment 6 months in advance).

    He insisted I had dozens of cavities, premature law bone loss, and needed a $160 toothbrush, $500 in new mouth guards (even though the old dentist had recently made me one) and fillings on the *front* of EVERY SINGLE TOOTH to the tune of $1600. My insurance maxes out at $750 per year, but he graciously offered to let me know when the insurance stopped paying so I could start paying the bills myself out of pocket. What a nice guy. He told every member of my family (without knowing we were related) that we each needed between $1600 – $3000 worth of dental work done and boy oh boy were we lucky that he was here to save our teeth from all the mistakes that the incompetent old dentist had made. He was practically giddy as he listed all of the “problems” he was finding with my teeth. He outright encouraged patients to SUE the old dentist, insisting that he was horrible and that every single one of his patients now had major dental problems because the old dentist sucked.

    This guy grossly underestimated the patients’ loyalty to the old dentist, resistance to scare tactics, and their willingness/ability to pay for pricey, unnecessary dental work. He also refused to release my x-rays to another dentist unless I paid a ridiculous fee, knowing full well that my insurance wouldn’t pay for me to get them retaken elsewhere. I immediately found a new dentist and he was more than willing to eat the cost of new x-rays to get me as a patient. The only upsell I’ve received at the new dentist was for a $40 mouth cancer test that isn’t covered by insurance, but they weren’t pushy about it. When my entire family left for different dentists, our supposed dental problems miraculously disappeared & this guy was all ready to drill every single one of my teeth.

  30. AstroPig7 says:

    It’s stories like this that make me understand why there are so many dentists in a three square mile radius of our house. Practices like this one need to be shut down as quickly as possible.

  31. INsano says:

    I’ve been looking for a dentist for 3 years now that isn’t a damn used car salesperson. I’ve been told my teeth looked fine by the Dental Assistant/cleaner, only to have the dentist swoop in at the end to say I needed $1,000-$1,500 in cavity work done. From no cavities that were a concern to 10 in the matter of two minutes. All I want is my teeth cleaned you sleazes!

  32. haggis for the soul says:

    Just because you made an appointment doesn’t mean you can’t get up and walk if a medical professional pulls this kind of crap on you.

  33. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    I used to work for the VA in a the Health Benefits Administration. I can’t tell you how many doctor’s offices and dentists attempt to double-bill and balance bill (charge the customer the difference between what their insurance covers and what the doctor’s office billed, an illegal practice).

  34. DEVO says:

    Gateway Dental out here in California is the same crap. I bought insurance for me and my wife for a couple hundred bucks that covered a couple of cleanings and a good chunk of most services. I felt well worth it for the cleanings alone. We both go to see the dentist and both are told we need this and that, totaling in the thousands, and get berated for about an hour on their services. Ultimately they say they can’t give us a cleaning at all until we get all this other stuff done first. Is this the norm? To be completely denied a cleaning because of other issues in your teeth. Anyone else dealt with this BS?

  35. gialablau says:

    Western Dental is the crappiest , most incompetent establishment EVER! It’s always just a little worse when a company has mind blowingly terrible service when they are in the business of healthcare. You know what I mean? I went to Western Dental years ago for x rays so that I could get wisdom teeth removed. The visit was about a hundred dollars, but what should have been one simple x ray of my mouth, or maybe two for a different angle, turned into a whopping 6 seperate x ray sessions and 4 different “dental assistants” trying to figure out how to work the x ray machine! Too much x ray machine = bad for your health! It’s downright dangerous! I was worried about what possible effects all of the unnecisary x rays may have had on me. I filed a BBB complaint telling my story and asking for a full refund because of the health risks the rude and incompetent staff members made me endure. The denied it for some riddiculous reason. So I filed another complaint. And a grievance with the corporate offices. After my 3rd letter refusing to accept no for an answer and threatening a civil suit, Western Dental finally refunded me in full. If this dental clinic were the last one on earth, I would gladly let my teeth rot out before I would let them touch me or take a cent from me. Even the receptionists are uneducated complete morons who are extremely rude and unhelpful.