Do I Really Need A Deep Teeth Cleaning?

One of our readers just tried to take advantage of a $50 teeth cleaning offer from a local dentist, but once he got there he was quoted a new price of $1,136 for what they described as a “deep cleaning.” Was their revised offer legit?

Span_Wolf writes:

I submit the following question to Consumerist readers, or any dentists that might read. Under any circumstances would it ever be reasonable to charge $1,136 dollars for a tooth cleaning?

I lost my dental insurance about a year and a half ago when I lost my last job. Being a year and a half since my last appointment I decided to go get a cleaning when a letter from a local dental office came in the mail offering half off on a cleaning for new customers. I went in fully expecting to need a bit of elbow grease in my cleaning since it had been so long, but after my initial examination I was told that I would be needing a, “deep cleaning” including numbing my gums, and my 50 dollar cleaning turned into 1,136 dollars. They said they would be willing to mark it down to 900 dollars if I paid up front. I told them I would think about it and got out of there as fast as I could short diving out the nearest window.

On the way home I pulled into another dental office and simply asked them, “What is the most you would ever possibly charge for a DEEP tooth cleaning?” They informed me that the most they would ever charge was a little less than 450 bucks, but that was a service for older patients that hadn’t been to a dentist in years and really needed some work, but as young as I was (25) I’d most likely not need anything that extreme or expensive.

So scam, ripoff, somehow legit, or a case of an upscale dentist office charging upscale prices?

First of all, I have to commend you on your diving-out-the-window exit, as that’s how I’d like to leave any dentist’s office I’ve ever been in.

As your second opinion source suggested, this page says deep cleaning is usually a service provided for patients who are 40-years-old and older. Unlike normal cleaning, a local anesthetic is used and the teeth are scraped several millimeters below the gum line. Usually the procedure is only performed if the dentist finds that the pockets around your teeth are deeper than normal, because that’s an early sign of gum disease.

The teeth are often cleaned in quadrants and it therefore can take more than one visit, which helps explain why it can cost more money.

Since you’re only 25 and have no history with this dental office, I’d definitely make an appointment elsewhere for a cleaning and not mention anything about this visit, to see whether a second examination reveals the same thing.

Any dental expert types out there who want to offer some advice?


Edit Your Comment

  1. BannedInBrittan says:

    >$1100 is way excessive. A periodontal cleaning with ultrasonic scaling would be well under that cost at every dentist I’ve ever been to. If you have gum disease or deep plaque pockets a ‘deep cleaning’ might be warranted but the cost seems excessive.

    • Necoras says:

      $1100 is a bit less than what I paid for SEVERAL fillings a few years back. I had braces in highschool and the bands around my molars absolutely destroyed them. I probably got 5 or 6 fillings and it came up somewhere around $13-1400. Insurance took care of some percentage (60% maybe?) of that. For a basic cleaning I usually get charged between $1-200, with 95% being covered by insurance (I’m aware the poster doesn’t have insurance, just stating what’s usually covered).

      I’d be curious to see if he went to Monarch or some other big chain like that. I’d assume that you’re more likely to get ripped off at such a place.

      • womynist says:

        I’ve never heard of Monarch, but I was guessing he either went to Aspen Dental or AllCare. They are both super-scammy, and I’ve never seen anyone come out of those places with less than a $4,000 treatment plan. I know this because the non-profit I work for liaisons with the local dental clinic where I live. Many times, folks have already been had by one of the scammy places before they come to me for local resources.

    • knoxblox says:

      Well, he just didn’t mention that it would be his wallet that would receive a deep cleaning…

    • seishino says:

      I had about two years of less-than-perfect hygiene result in receding gums and some enamel pitting. I had a need for a deep cleaning, and I’m 31. It happens.

      The procedure took place in 2 sections, each between 2.5 and 3 hours, with 2 people present each time. The gums were numbed, then pulled back and meticulously cleaned under. It was a painstaking, and painful, process. While I forget the exact number, I believe they charged about a grand for it. That works out to about $100 per person per hour.

      Now, the office I was going to at the time A: was very thorough about everything. and B: was the kind of dentist you go to if you have insurance. Which is to say, they clearly splurged for expensive high-tech tools and spent hours getting everything absolutely just right.

      I don’t think that’s a scam, but it may be an abundance of caution rather than your-teeth-will-fall-out-now. If you’re looking out-of-pocket, you can probably find cheaper dentists to do the work. And if you’re looking out-of-pocket, definitely get a second opinion and a second bid.

  2. cromartie says:

    The procedure is legit. At the op’s age and with his dental history, he probably doesn’t need it.

    The price is horrible, and it was lovely of the dentist to try and bait and switch you into something deeper. Use the power of the internets on your Google machine to get the word out on the scam.

    Love the cat picture.

    • LACubsFan says:

      A) It’s really expensive… 1100 for SRP’s (aka deep cleaning) is kinda nuts.
      B) Everyone on here saying that this isn’t needed at that age is talking out of their ass, you can only tell after the XRays are viewed.
      C) It should be approx 150 per quad ($600), and you will have to be numb for it.
      D) Look at the X Rays yourself, if you have bone loss you can see it clear as day. If you scanned your X-Rays and put them up I could tell you in 30 seconds.
      E) If you need a deep cleaning, and you only get the regular cleaning it’s like waxing your car before you wash it.

  3. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Awww!! Kitty dentist! That’s so cute!

  4. AstroPig7 says:

    I had a deep cleaning earlier this year because I had foregone regular checkups for 4 years. I have dental insurance, so I don’t mind the extra cost, but someone without it probably would have balked. If the OP has had regular cleanings, then a deep cleaning should have been totally unnecessary.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      I should have mentioned that the total price was still nowhere near this high, though.

    • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

      I went to the dentist in the past year after not going for about 6 years and had no significant issues. (I couldn’t afford it while I was in college.) As long as you take good care of your teeth (whether or not you go to the dentist at the recommended 6-month frequency) it is entirely unwarranted.

      • Tim says:

        it is entirely unwarranted

        I hope you’re not referring to regular semi-annual cleanings and dental exams. They’re a damn good idea.

      • AstroPig7 says:

        Some people have naturally weak enamel. Some people eat a lot of spicy foods and drink a lot of soda. Some people are just unfortunate. Be careful with absolute statements.

        • ames says:

          And sometimes teeth just decided to give up and fall apart. No cavities or any kind of decay for 35 years, and then boom – two cavities and a root canal.

          • AstroPig7 says:

            When I switched from a pediatric dentist to a regular dentist, I magically developed four cavities. Sometimes it’s just the dentist wanting a new big screen television.

            • ames says:

              Oh dear! That’s why I ask to see the X-rays. If I don’t see the cavity, it doesn’t happen.. Unfortunately, mine was totally legit.

    • smo0 says:

      I have some back molar cavities from when I had braces… I went to the dentist for a check up and a cleaning and discuss the cost of having them filled… all of it was relatively cheap and mostly covered under insurance – but then they said I needed a deep cleaning, and WITH insurance… that shit was $400 bux.
      Now that I read this article… it makes me wonder if some of these dentists are skimming something extra….

  5. MaliBoo Radley says:

    My husband had this very same deep cleaning. I think we paid an extra $50 on top of our co-pay. He was only 34 at the time, but was indeed in the early stages of gum disease. Still is. He has to be more mindful than most, with extra flossing and a prescription mouth rinse.

    So, this kid could very well have the beginnings of gum disease, but the price does seem rather outrageous.

    • Pastry Minion says:

      Yep. I get two of them a year due to periodontal disease. My insurance covers the first one, the second one is out of pocket because they only cover 1 per year. My dentist may be cutting me a break, but the out of pocket charge is usually about $250.

      It’s entirely possible that a younger patient may need a periodontal scaling/deep cleaning (I got my first at age 27, ouch) but the cost is ridiculous.

  6. Tim says:

    From what I’ve read and heard from dentists (though IANAD), this would most likely be bullshit.

    The only thing you need to clean off your teeth is food, plaque, sugar and related things. Brushing your teeth with a normal toothbrush and toothpaste and using floss regularly take care of that just fine. There’s nothing stuck on your teeth with any amount of force; it just needs the help of a toothbrush or floss to get off. Of course, a good cleaning from a hygenist every six months is a good idea too (though that costs, at most, $100, which includes the exam by a dentist).

    Now if you have decay, that’s different. All the cleaning in the world won’t get rid of your cavities. You need fillings in that case.

    The other exception, as the post said, is gum problems. But at 25, you probably don’t have those. And if you do, you don’t need a “deep cleaning,” you need some sort of gum treatment.

    I say, find a dentist who will give you a normal cleaning and checkup. It may cost a bit, but it’s worth it. Plus, chances are good you’ll get a discount, since you don’t have insurance and all (but you’ll need to ask). Regular, semi-annual cleanings and exams a definitely a good idea.

    • Tim says:

      Argg I mixed things up. The gum treatment is sometimes called a deep cleaning. But chances are slim that the OP needs it.

    • Extractor says:

      How are you going to remove tarter below the gum line? Toothbrush doesnt work for that.

  7. Truthie says:

    A deep cleaning is indeed a valid procedure if you have significant tartar buildup, but that is wayyy too much money. I think with insurance the total cost for me was $400, of which $100 I paid.

  8. BurtReynolds says:

    I had a scaling done in my early 20’s as the dentist said I needed one. I was in my senior year of college and had put off going to the dentist for the last couple years while in school. I was hardly taking good care of my teeth those 2 years, so I didn’t question the logic behind it. I forgot what the cost ended up being, because the insurance company balked at the idea of a 20-something needing the procedure.

    When I moved after college and went to a new dentist, I mentioned I had a scaling done before and they were taken aback that I would have had one done so early.

    On the bright side, it was an awful procedure to go through, so I take much better care of my mouth these days in hopes of avoiding ever having that done again. It scared me straight I guess.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      I’ll add to mine that this was my family’s dentist. I wasn’t there on some “special”, I wasn’t a new patient, and it wasn’t a chain like Aspen. I think my parents and youngest brother still go to her office.

      Also, mine was done in one sitting with novacaine. I remember the bulk of the work was done in the lower front of my mouth, so maybe I didn’t need all “quadrants” done.

  9. balthisar says:

    Dentist’s husband here! That sounds like a procedure more properly referred to as scaling or root planing. It’s a periodontal treatment for people with early to advanced gum disease. Even if a 25 year old has never flossed in his life, it’s still relatively uncommon to have a periodontal condition that requires scaling.

    • Skankingmike says:

      For 25 you are either genetically prone to this or have horrible teeth.

      I have to have one soon as I have neglected my teeth for more than 15 years :P

      PPL here are commenting on the price.

      What they may fail to see is that insurance rates (even after your insurance runs out or only pays so much) Dentists, many of them, are set up with discounts to patients or rather their plans rate.

      So while it may seem extremely high to you, that very well may be the rate for non insurance carrying patients and the dentists who quoted you such a rate may not know you don’t have insurance.

      You become a risk of nonpayment without insurance.

  10. sirwired says:

    The idea of a deep cleaning is legit. It can take a lot of time and effort to clean teeth in patients with gum disease. But yes, that price sounds too high. And if you don’t have gum disease, a normal cleaning is pretty much always adequate.

  11. Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

    When I was pregnant my gums got bad (side effect of pregnancy) and my dentist mentioned a deep cleaning. I told him I’d clear it up myself, and I did. What to do: brush (gently) and floss after eating (anything), use a peroxide based mouthwash twice a day (one of those times right before bed) and limit bad carbs. After doing that for a few weeks my gums were back to normal. It was strange for me to even have that problem, as my mouth is usually in tip top shape.

    Get a dentist recommendation from someone you know, then ask that dentist about this issue.

  12. Liam Kinkaid says:

    “Unlike normal cleaning, a local anesthetic is used and the teeth are scraped several millimeters below the gum line.”

    I’ve had a periodontal scaling done twice in my life. Neither time did I have the luxury of anesthetic. It was a “lay back and think of England” type of experience both times.

    • qbubbles says:

      Same here… where can I get some damn Novocaine? Not only did I not get any anesthetic, but I wasnt even told it was gonna happen. Yaaaay not speaking the language! (full story down below)

    • Pastry Minion says:

      Yeah, what’s this novocaine BS? Although to be fair, she does use the topical anbesol-ish sort of stuff, which does take the edge off a tad.

  13. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    That’s the ugliest cat I’ve ever seen.

  14. Taed says:

    I’ve had it done twice. The first time, I got the additional post-cleaning antibiotic stuff (forget the name), but that was about 60% of the entire bill and it wasn’t covered by my insurance. It also required you to not eat for 18 hours or something like that. And then I read the literature, and it was only a tiny bit better than no antibiotic. So, the second time I had it done a few years later, I did not get that extra procedure and I was happy — far cheaper and easier.

  15. madtube says:

    I have an irrational fear of dentists and have fallen out of practice in going to see them. So after a couple of years I went in to get some work done. I needed my top 2 back molars crowned due to damage from impacted teeth. My dental insurance was dropped without my knowledge and I had to pay outright. For 2 crowns, extensive cleaning, and a couple (2 or 3 small) fillings was going to cost me $2100. Your quote of $1100+ for a cleaning is suspicious. Run away, far away from that place.

    FWIW, I had half the procedure done. Got the fillings, cleaning, and 1 of the crowns done before we had to move because of my wife’s change in duty station. I need to have the other crown done, but there is that irrational fear of dentists.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Yeah, I am pretty frightened of dentists too; did not have a problem with them until around my early 20’s, had a couple of fillings to do, and so they numbed me up, started drilling, then the dentist got called away. An hour or so later when the numb had begun to wear off, he came back to finish up and just started drilling again. Hurt like hell.

      It was only years and a badly fractured tooth that got me to go back to a dentist. A different one.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        If you just went for regular cleaning you wouldn’t be afraid of them and you likely wouldn’t have had such invasive procedures because of good maintenance.

        • rmorin says:

          No, I’m pretty sure you can still be afraid of them even if you go regularly.

          • madtube says:

            I have to agree. I went for regular cleaning and still had the irrational fear. It only got worse. I know I have a few screws loose, but still…

  16. bkdlays says:

    I bet he went to a Aspen Dental or other franchise dental clinic

  17. SanDiegoDude says:

    When I was 23 or 24, I had to have Scaling and Root Planing done. It’s horridly uncomfortable bordering on painful (once the anesthesia wears off) and yes, takes several visits. In my case, even though I brush and floss regularly, I was malnourished as a child and the results are “deep pockets” around my teeth, which (annoyingly) the deep cleaning really didn’t help with.

    Don’t use age as a factor alone to say he doesn’t need it, and since the procedure can take several visits the cost can ratchet up depending on how many “quadrants” that need to be done.

    One question for Span_Wolf is, did the dentist measure the depth of the pockets around his teeth? My memory is a bit hazy, but it involves taking a measuring tool and one of those wicked looking metal picks and shoving them both down into the upper gum region between the gum and the tooth. If the dentist didn’t do this to you, then I definitely call shenanigans!

  18. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I’ve seen these ads, and most of them say “Price valid without presence of gum disease.” Considering that is sort of dependent on whether or not the dentist thinks you have good gums or not (mine ALWAYS bleed whenever they floss, even though I brush regularly) I don’t think its a valid deal.

    Plus, half the time these things are just to get you in the door, once you’re there they prey on your benevolence to not walk away.

    • TouchMyMonkey says:

      Kind of like those tire stores that offer cut-rate front-end alignments, only to sucker you in for replacing a whole bunch of stuff you probably don’t need.

  19. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    The OP pretty much hit all the talking points you could make on the subject.

    Luring you in with a deal and gouging you with upsells
    Not buying at the initial sales pitch
    Getting a second opinion

    But for those of you who want something new to talk about, the act of diving out of the window as he described actually has a definition.

    It’s called to defenestrate. From the french: fenetre, which means window.

  20. AjariBonten says:

    I think the real issue here is the apparent (obvious??) bait-n-switch being performed by this dental office. What makes me suspicious that this is a “chain store” practice? The only surprising thing here is that they even bothered with someone without dental insurance.

  21. sqeelar says:

    Drugs may be involved. It happens. Most states have an impaired practioner help line. Inappropriate procedures and high charges may be an indicator.

  22. Pinget says:

    Some dentists will take you for all you’re willing to part with. Upselling is definitely part of their vocabulary. Keep your bullsh*t radar on and caveat emptor. Yes, there are still some who are not like this, thank goodness. Good luck finding one.

  23. backinpgh says:

    If he had the beginning stages of gum disease or some other horrendous problem that would have necessitated a deep cleaning, wouldn’t that ALSO have been explained to him at the time of the exam? Sounds like the dentist was running a bait and switch with scare tactics.

  24. qbubbles says:

    I’ve been scaled so many times in my life… and its not like I have any effing issues.

    The first time I was in Korea @ age 15, the second time, I was in Egypt @ age 17. The third time was in the states @ age 23. This is the reason I need a bucket of Ativan to walk into ANY dentist’s office. It hurts, I usually cant eat for a couple of days, and all I really want to do is hide in a corner and cry.

    And note, I still have perfect teeth, with no periodontal issues, whatsoever. I get, maybe, a cavity every two years. It happens. No reason to scale me every time I go for a damn cleaning.

    I dont trust dentists for shit. Masochistic scary ass mofos.

  25. sparrowmint says:

    My roommate got suckered in by a deal like this as well from Aspen Dental, and they quoted him something similar. I couldn’t convince him for the life of me that it was a bad deal, and he ended up paying for it via Carecredit at insane interest. Such an idiot.

  26. cape1232 says:

    There are dentists out there with a strong profit motive. I had a dentist once who actually had me sign a document acknowledging that he’d told me a bunch of stuff he recommended, but just to acknowledge that he told me not to authorize him to do it. Then when I came back in for a filling, he also sealed some of my molars, at large cost. When I protested, he trotted out that document saying, “See, you told me to do it.”

    I was a naive college student at the time, so I got a minor concession but still paid. Today, I’d walk him right into court.

    Anyway, the moral is, good for you for not being the dupe I was! ;)

  27. esk42 says:

    I’m 32 and had this done last year; it’s also called a “scaling”. If you have any other tooth issues that might make plaque collect (recessive gums, in my case) it’s an every-four-or-five-years procedure. HOWEVER, that price is insane. My dentist bills my insurance company between $450-600 depending on how many teeth must be cleaned.

  28. Zaphâ„¢ says:

    I am 29 and had a deep cleaning done just recently, but that was because it had been 8.5 years since I had been to the dentist (bad previous dental experience, don’t ask) and they had to do it two sessions. Since I had dental insurance it was not very expensive but even with out it would have only been about 400 dollars.

  29. Kevin says:

    It was a scam. It’s always a scam! That’s what you get for responding to unsolicited mail.

  30. KingTaco says:

    I had that deep cleaning thing done a few years ago at about the age of 35. The office called it Root Planing and Scraping. I forget what it cost but they said it was a fairly aggressive attempt to fend off gum disease since I hadn’t been to the dentist in about 8 years, my gums were receding and bled pretty easily, and I had that deep tooth pocket thing. I also needed an old filling replaced that had become infected, and 2 root canals. So, unless your mouth sounds like mine, you probably don’t need it. After all this work my gums look better and no longer bleed, so it was probably the right thing for me.

  31. momtimestwo says:

    The timing of this article sucks. Today I have my first dental appointment in 8 years. I have a cavity that needs to be filled and I need a cleaning. Since I have dental insurance, I have no excuse not to go except that I’m a huge sissy, and I hate hate hate the sound of the dental equipment.

    I’m not going to let them up sell me on anything. I want to plan out a “road map to my dental health”. I make my kids go every 6 months, so should I. And even though I live in Tennessee, my mouth doesn’t have to look like I live in Tennessee!

    Have I convinced myself I will be just fine today?!?!

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      If it’s a small cavity, skip the numbing shot. Small fillings do not hurt to get at all. I do not get my mouth numbed anymore. If it were a big cavity, sure, but it literally isn’t even uncomfortable to have a small one filled w/no lido.

      • Anonymously says:

        Plus it’s totally macho to tell your friends that you had your teeth drilled without Novocaine.

  32. Grogey says:

    I would assume that this is considered a Bait and Switch of a sort?

  33. Anonymously says:

    My dentist “horror” story:

    One of my fillings broke and needed to be repaired. My insurance covers silver filings fully, but not white ones, so I opted for the silver filling.

    The dentist billed my insurance for a while filling. After receiving my first bill from the dentist, I called them to have them resubmit the claim. I received a second bill – no corrections. I called the insurance company. Insurance company calls the dentist. Third bill – no corrections.

    At this point I paid them the correct amount for a silver filling, leaving a remaining balance of $15.

    Fourth bill, they claim I still owe $15. Call the insurance company. Company three-ways me on a call to the dentist office to correct it

    Fifth bill – still for $15. I write a letter directly to the dentist, saying how pleased I was with her years of service and how I know she’ll correct the issue promptly since she’s such a good dentist.

    Sixth bill – $0 balance (yay!)
    No apologies or explanations from the dentist.
    I canceled my future appointment and am now seeing a new dentist.

    • Tim says:

      My insurance works like this too. My dentist knows it, so the office will bill the procedure as a silver filling, then add on the white part (white filling cost minus silver filling cost). So the insurance thinks I got a silver one, and I pay the usual uncovered amount for a silver filling, plus the entire amount for the white addition.

  34. oneandone says:

    I had deep cleaning (aka scaling or root planing) done at age 28 due to bad, inflammed gums and the ‘pockets’ you mention (and poor habits – I hate to floss). I also had 2 cavities to fill (in different mouth quadrants) and would be getting the anesthetic anyway, so that helped me decide to go through with the deep cleaning as well. I was skeptical, just like the OP, but a 2nd opinion confirmed that I should get it.

    It is rare that someone in their 20s would need it, but not impossible. However, that cost is a little high. I have dental insurance, so I didn’t pay too much for it, but the total cost to me + my insurance for deep cleaning + local anesthetic + 2 cavities filled with the more expensive filling (not amalgam) = about $900. It was over 2 visits, so that includes the co-pay at each, also. This was last year in the DC area, which may be more expensive than others.

  35. juniper says:

    Sounds like a fancy (and less scary name for) a root planing and scaling. I’m in my late 20’s and have had to have them twice due to gum disease. Sometimes genetics are not on your side no matter how much you brush or floss. I’m in a major metropolitan area and it cost me about $600 after insurance. I had in done in two rounds, left and right, with local anesthesia each time (which is partly why the cost is so high).

    • AstroPig7 says:

      I had my entire mouth scaled (one half each visit) with local anaesthetic for much less. Either my dentist is charging less or my insurance is awesome.

  36. onlyntexas says:

    If you paid, you got suckered.

    I have had this happen to me before but the strategy they used was the double dip appointments. They state that I need to come back a second time for the other part of my mouth. haha. Even with insurance, I am not going to let them screw the insurance company either. I did not go back mind you.

    There are crooks in all facets of life. Dont trust anyway as the saying goes.

  37. Rencelas says:

    I went to a new dentist once for a cleaning and X-Rays, etc. Covered 100% by insurance. However, he said I had 9 cavities that he’d need to fix. I hightailed it out and went to see my family dentist for a 2 minute check (free). That was 5 years ago. I still have no cavities, and no other dentist has ever seen one. There are scumbag dentists out there.

  38. u1itn0w2day says:

    One of the best things you can do is keep your mouth moist. Many tooth pastes,washes and treatments can dry out your mouth which makes it easier for bacteria and food to stick to your teeth. Also a wetter mouth allows natures anti cavity fighting bacteria/microbes or what ever to ‘clean’ your mouth. Goes back to drinking water. Many foods and snacks can dry your mouth as well too.

    And it’s just not sugar. Dentists have told they’re more worried about pieces of other food getting stuck somewhere on or in between your teeth. In other words floss and don’t be afraid to use tooth picks as well.

    The last cleaning I had popped a crown which set of a series of problems I’m still dealing with today. It’s been well over 10 years since my last cleaning and the same teeth that were troublesome before and the ones that are troublesome now. Unless it’s prescribed to actually cure and fix a situation to get one for the heck of it is a risk like any other procedure.

    One last thing if you floss it pays to brush before and after since you don’t want to drag any un-necessary crap around your mouth or let the residue sit.

  39. Clyde Barrow says:

    It seems most posters here have missed the OPs point. it’s not about getting a cleaning but the price of $1,136 from $50.00. I have dealt with such deceptive practices in all sorts of businesses and I’ve learned to become hard and just walk away. These businesses set people up for a great deal and then hit them with a higher price. It’s all planned to take more money from the customer.

    Businesses have gotten desparate and are trying new ways to take advantage of the consumer.

    • Tim says:

      There are two separate issues. Issue one is that the OP saw an advertisement for one procedure at one price, then was told that he definitely needs another procedure at a whole other price. Issue two is that the latter procedure, even if he needed it, would cost much more than it should.

    • maraa01 says:

      I agree with this point. At Aspen my older teen (no dental insurance) had some work done. We paid in full that day, actually received a bill that said paid in full. A couple of months later he gets a letter from a collection agency saying he owes 25 dollars.

  40. maraa01 says:

    Is this Aspen dental? Every person that I know who has gone to Aspen dental has been hit up for procedures like this. A couple were worried enough to go to a non-chain dentist only to be told that they did not need to procedure.

  41. Extractor says:

    Not fair! My office has the same type of promotion.
    The promotional offer was for a routine cleaning which is above the gum level. What he was quoted for was for a cleaning where the pt gets nmbed up and then the scraping begins. As to whether or not its needed, show me the X-rays. And that $450 figure was probably only for 1 quadrant, upper or lower, left or right side.
    This is like diagnosing over the phone, as my cousin tried yesterday. She’s seeing her dentist today.

  42. dolemite says:

    I recall when I got out of college, I had gone 7 years without going to the dentist. However, I do brush/floss regularly. Besides having some tartar buildup at the base of my teeth (and sometimes under the gumline, which they included with the cleaning), I had no problems.

    My dentist is always concerned about my gums and the pockets. He just says there are 2 types of people in the world generally. Those with good teeth, and those with good gums. He says gum health is mostly genetic, and you can only try and minimize the problems.

    I used to have bleeding gums, puffy gums, despite the fact I brushed 3x a day and flossed every day. I would even use mouth wash, etc, and nothing seemed to help. The one thing that completely changed things was buying a water pik. I use that nightly before bed for about 60 seconds, and my gum problems of the past 30+ years cleared up almost overnight. I just wish I had found out about it sooner.

  43. DoodlestheGreat says:

    I’ve had the same procedure done to myself recently, but it’s not commonly necessary and far less expensive than the price quoted here. I would suggest getting a second opinion before going to that extreme.

  44. mike1731 says:

    Once I checked into a new dentist that a coworker recommended . The lobby played quasi-church music, there were several bibles displayed, and a video in the corner played a nonstop tape on teeth whitening and cleaning. Once I got into the dentist, he informed me that all of my molars were bad and needed crowns. I was impressed how much he knew about my dental insurance and was able to space services out over several years to avoid going over maximums.

    Immediately after leaving the office, I went back to my original dentist and asked him to examine my molars. He ran xrays, and confirmed that they were all in fact fine, and there was no sign of decay. Suffice to say, I didn’t change dentists. Meantime, the original coworker who recommended me said she really liked the dentist since he was a member of her church, and she trusted him completely. She was barely over 30 and had five crowns, and lots of other corective procedures done.

    As a final note, I finally did need to get one of my molars crowned, ten years after the bogus dentist appt. All my other molars are quite happy as they are.

    Short, quick moral of the story, if you feel strange in any way, trust your gut and get a second or third opinion. Your teeth need to last a lifetime, and getting extra procedures is not only expensive, but could complicate things for you in the future.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      That always puzzled me the wild variations in dentists/dental care quality. Maybe the profession is producing better product know a days but I have yet to find the complete package. If their diagnostic skills are there the hands on are not. If there good with the hands to fill a fiing or do what ever without incident they don’t know squat about anything else. Then you have the hard core billers who want nothing but cookie cutter problems they handle so they can keep up the patients per hour. Most dentists lack the engineering mindset as well, they’re more worried about cosmetic procedure completions than they are the physics including the rotational & crushing forces inside your mouth while biting that will trash their work with in a day.

      Why frack do you half do think half these fracks are high pressure selling crap like cleanings- because it’s cookie cutter and with in their abilities(frequently limited)

  45. akiri423 says:

    My husband recently went to the dentist for the first time in 17 years. Now, we do have dental insurance, which obviously affects the price we pay – but to “deep clean” his teeth, presumably how the OP means (over the course of two visits, no less)… perform full x-rays… yank two wisdom teeth… surgically extract another… surgically extract some left-behind root tips… fill 13 cavities… $2,300, including insurance’s portion. There’s no way a cleaning should cost half as much as what hubby and I will be paying.

  46. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    Get another opinion, and have the suspect dental office send your records to a different dentist.

    I have terrible teeth. I was quoted nearly $4000 for periodontal work which included the same sort of scraping and cleaning. This is on a mouth with most of the upper teeth gone and many lower teeth gone. (I wear bridges and partials). When the office’s business person told me I could write them postdated checques and that I should have 40 or 50 years of enjoyment left, I said No thanks. A 54 year old diabetic probably doesn’t have 40 or 50 years left. I’ve opted for full dentures. A new dentist told me that’s probably best, given the condition of the remaining teeth.

  47. tanyaandkarl says:

    You’re asking the wrong question.
    It doesn’t matter if you really need the service or not.

    Look at what you wrote:
    $50 *** offer
    quoted a new price of $1,136

    Substitute *** with anything you like. I’t still Bait and switch. Run away.
    Whoever made this offer is a con man–not somebody you want to do business with.
    ESPECIALLY not your dentist!
    Providers of professional services should be held to a higher ethical standard than used car salesmen.
    That’s why they have professional licenses and codes of ethics.

  48. invisibelle says:

    Yeah. This happened to me when I was 23 or so and I let myself get fleeced. I was just so gung-ho about trying to be a responsible adult that it didn’t occur to me to shop around. Kudos to OP.

  49. Buckus says:

    Bait and Switch. It’s not just for car dealers and electronics stores, my friend…

  50. Home_Economist says:

    According to my family practice physician, there is no scientific peer-reviewed double-blind studies to support that these “deep-cleanings” work. My Wife and I got suckered into them once & never again. Attention Dentists: “Show me the science, not your inflated bill.”

  51. nodaybuttoday says:

    I had a dental office tell me the same exact thing, I was 25 at the time. They claimed I needed the deep cleaning due to gum disease and it would cost me over $1000. I said I needed time to think about it, went to a different dentist who told me I just needed two regular cleanings over the course of a few months and that would be fine. He told me the office, located in a shopping mall btw, was just trying to get money out of me…

  52. Elvisisdead says:

    I would almost guarantee that it’s a dental franchise. During times when I haven’t had dental insurance, franchises are the cheapest for cleanings. However, without fail, they have always tried to sell me dental sealants. I’m 38, and they’ve been hawking them since I was 25.

    Sounds like I might need them – with the exception that my brother and sister-in law ARE dentists. If I didn’t live half a country away, I’d go to them (and do when I’m at home). According to both of them, I don’t need any sealants, and never have. Last time, I confronted the “dentist” with the fact that sealants are almost never recommended to adult patients, and she was visibly ashamed that she recommended them. Wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and after the first one, wouldn’t offer any more excuses other than “I’m sorry.” I wasn’t ugly to her at all, and had a pleasant conversation after the sealants discussion was over.

    Many of these chains have policies that dictate that they try to put sealants on EVERY person that walks in the door. The ADA won’t say that they’re bunk, because in some cases they aren’t. Also because it’s a HUGE moneymaker, and they won’t hurt their constituents by saying so.

    Also, be VERY wary of anywhere that won’t do a basic cleaning on the same day as the initial consultation. That’s a big tip-off that they’re not the place you should be going if you have a choice.

  53. haggis for the soul says:

    Whether or not he needs a scaling and planing is up to a dentist to decide, but hopefully a legitimate one who doesn’t need to offer up bait-and-switch coupons in order to get patients. And it shouldn’t cost that much, even if you have zero insurance.

  54. Casey B says:

    I’m a dental hygienist and this is definitely a legit procdure that I do evey day. Age has no factor, it depends on the depth of your periodontal pockets and the amount of tartar on your teeth. The youngest patient I’ve had to do scaling/root planing on was a ten old refugee. I work in a rural area and we charge $200/quadrant so $1100 isn’t overly excessive. Also, cleanings every 6 months aren’t enough for most patients so don’t be suprised if they want you to come back every 3 months.

  55. robk2 says:

    That fee does seem excessive. I’m a third year dental student and have done a handful of “deep cleanings”. A deep cleaning is actually called “Scaling and Root Planing” (SRP). It is performed in cases where the patient has a lot of sub-gingival calculus (calcified plaque below the gum line), remarkably deep pockets (the space where the gums surround each tooth), or other signs of periodontal disease. They separate your mouth into four “quadrants” and typically do one quadrant per appointment. They use local anesthetic and use sharp instruments to remove the calculus down nearly to where the bone level is around each tooth.

    At the dental school (which is *much* cheaper then private practice) we charge $75/quadrant. So a full mouth SRP would be 300. Anywhere up to double that wouldn’t be outrageous in private practice.

  56. Jimmy S says:

    I am a general dentist in the Atlanta area with 10 years experience. Sadly, root planing and deep scaling is a procedure that is grossly over-prescribed right now. In this economy a lot of dentists have had to find new sources of revenue to continue to meet the always increasing overhead that we face. Very few 25 year old patients should require such a procedure. If there is a history of early tooth loss in your family, perhaps it is indicated. I would highly recommend a second opinion. If they will give you a copy of your radiographs I would be happy to look at them at no charge. My website is (First time poster – sorry if this is bad form. I’m not seeking new patients but simply offering some professional assistance to a fellow reader.)

    I read some of the other posts about dentists and a lot of people have a legitimate complaint on here. Most of us are very hard working small business owners that simply want to make our “customers” (patients) happy and hope that they will refer their friends and coworkers to us. But there is a percentage that abuse their position out of pure greed. If something sounds wrong, please seek a second opinion. Also, if you have a trusted dentist already but suddenly need something expensive, do not be afraid to ask for a discount or at least an interest-free payment plan. Most of us are happy to do it! Oh, and remember to floss! Good luck…

  57. Stella says:

    It’s a scam. I worked as a dental receptionist and during that time if I booked one or two deep scaling cleanings a month, that’s probably a generous estimate. I used one of those coupons for a cleaning/exam and got an estimate for several thousands of dental work that allegedly needed to be done–including a deep, scaling cleaning and a CROWN! Went to a local dental school and their assessment was that I needed a basic cleaning and small filling. “But what about the crown?” I asked the dentist professor. He looked in my mouth three times and couldn’t see anywhere that I might need a crown.

    Good for you for being skeptical!

  58. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Was in Monarch? We HAVE to use Monarch on our dental insurance and they like to nickel and dime you. I really do have (had) gum disease and was charged $250 WITH INSURANCE to do a scaling and root plaining on two teeth. My husband just had one done too, but his was more extensive than mine and cost $320 at Monarch. I thought it was a major ripoff and wish I would have just had them skip it.

    I used to have moderate gum disease and got one quadrant done at a reputable dentist, cash pay for around $250. After that, I started using an expensive sonic toothbrush and flossing a lot. When I went back 6 months later to have another quadrant done (I couldn’t afford it sooner than that) my pockets were completely gone. I still have 1 or two pop up (usually around two of my back molars) But, diligent extra brushing and flossing and rinsing seems to get rid of it.

  59. cete-of-badgers says:

    My cat got a deep teeth cleaning last year. They used some kind of general anesthesia so she would not freak out too much. It cost a little over $100. I know OP is not a kitty cat, but $1,100 is complete bullshit!

  60. sk1d says:

    This is really only necessary if you have periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease. Are your gums dark in colour, look swollen or puffy, or bleed very easily when you brush? If this is the case, then yes you probably do need it as periodontitis can affect anyone at any age. And yes it does cost over a grand, but get a second opinion, a proper exam, before you do it.

  61. sassypants says:

    How common is it to get 2nd opinions on dental work? I found out recently I need a root canal and estimated cost AFTER insurance is $1900. At age 34, I’m in shock. I am considering getting a 2nd opinion/quote but not sure if dentists usually do that sort of thing.

    • MoreFunThanToast says:

      Is that for just 1 root canal? If so, that’s ridiculously expensive! It should be maybe around $800 for the molars and cheaper for the front teeth.

      Go to another dentist, there is no reason you have to stick to one.

  62. MoreFunThanToast says:

    The procedure itself is definitely legit. I had to go through it when I was 23, and that’s after visiting a couple of dentists. I never used to floss and rarely went to dentist because I didn’t have insurance.

    The procedure was separated into 4 sessions and cost a fortune because I also had to get 11 cavity fillings replaced. Insurance paid about half of the total cost and my dentist gave me discount for the portion I had to pay. $1,100 doesn’t sound too excessive, mine was probably in that price range but my dentist is awesome and I got a lot of anesthetics and didn’t feel a thing in the process. (I got all my old fillings sans anesthetics and it’s probably why I avoid going to dentists for years)

    $450 sound really cheap though, the cheapest quote I got was $700 and that was from a pretty cheap dental office 6 years ago. Do get a second opinion but don’t think just because you’re young you definitely won’t need it.

  63. samonela says:

    Im 27 and my dentist gave me a deep cleaning for “free” (quotes because they then billed my insurance company about $500 to which my ins co sent me a chastising letter essentially damning me for accepting such an outrageous offer)…

    Also, I did it without any numbing. It didn’t hurt that bad…

  64. GrahamPit? says:

    I went to the dentist about four months ago and they told me I needed a deep cleaning. total price $2,080. I said “sure” and never scheduled the appointments. They also gave me two fillings I probably didn’t need.

  65. BytheSea says:

    FWIW, I had the same situation w/ no dental insurance, and went 2 years w/ no cleaning. When I went in, they didn’t mention anything about deep cleaning. It cost $80.

  66. ReverendTed says:

    I’m a general dentist, and as you can probably tell, I like to talk.
    The most important thing you can do as a dental patient (or medical patient) is be educated about your condition and the treatments that have been prescribed for you.
    Do not be afraid to ask questions until you understand both. If your dentist (or doctor) won’t be bothered to answer your questions or give you a means for answering them (educational materials, educated staff members), then find a new dentist. It’s your mouth and your money.
    I know that for many people, that’s easier said than done. Many employers offer inexpensive dental plans that only offer benefits at a very limited number of dental offices, many of which are commonly “volume-based” chains. A good dentist is probably worth the extra cost, but it might be worthwhile to lobby the higher-ups for a new dental plan.
    Oh, boy. I could write an entire article about dental insurance plans.

    Anyway, it seems there are two issues in question:
    1) Cost
    2) Necessity

    Whether or not “deep cleaning”, or “Scaling and Root Planing” (SCRP) is warranted is *necessarily* based on a diagnosis of Periodontal Disease (or “Gum disease”). This is important. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you’ve been to the dentist, or how much tartar (or “calculus”) is on your teeth, or how difficult the dentisthygienist thinks the cleaning is going to be (although these things are often correlated with “perio”). SCRP is a procedure prescribed for the treatment of active periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is generally diagnosed based on the presence of deep pockets between the gums and the teeth, which are signs that the bone of the jaw is receding. A SCRP is performed to remove the bacteria and irritants adhering to the roots of the teeth in these deep pockets, and hopefully arrest the process. It then falls to regular maintenance and diligent home care to keep the process from becoming active again.
    As has been mentioned by others, it is atypical for a 25-year-old to present with active periodontal disease, though it is certainly not unheard of. Whether your diagnosis was accurate requires confirmation by evaluation of radiographs (X-rays) and periodontal probing records.
    I know for a fact that some dentists will prescribe SCRP strictly based on the presence of subgingival calculus (tartar under the gumline), because cleaning it off is more difficult and time consuming, though this is technically incorrect without (again) a diagnosed case of active periodontal disease.

    As regards the cost, that’s variable. It depends on where you live. Dentistry is more expensive in certain areas, just like homes or groceries. It depends on the dentist, obviously. Some dentists charge higher fees because they feel they offer a higher level of service. (Admittedly, just as in any profession, some dentists charge higher fees because it means higher profits.)
    The (standard) fees at our office are higher than average because I believe patient education is important, and I believe I spend more time with each of my patients than most dentists.
    In our office, SCRP runs about $225 per quadrant, or $900 for all four quadrants. If you’re on one of the dental insurance plans we participate in, the total fee comes down to around $720, and the insurance will usually pick up between 50% to 80% of that (depending on your plan).

    Assuming you do in fact have periodontal disease, $1000 (or even the lower-quoted $450) is not an insignificant amount of money, but the eventual consequence of unchecked periodontal disease is tooth loss. If you need it, it’s absolutely worth it. Furthermore, SCRP should only really be necessary once, if you follow up with regular maintenance and diligent home care.

    It is absolutely within your rights as a consumer and a patient to seek a second opinion any time you have doubts.

  67. grumpygirl says:

    Some people’s teeth develop more plaque than others. They’re not totally sure why this is so, but it’s hereditary in many cases.

    The more stress I am experiencing in life (whether it be physical or emotional), the more plaque my teeth develop. I’ve had the same dental hygienist for 10 years and I go every 6 months like clockwork. The ups and downs of my teeth’s plaque levels are well recorded. It’s the same thing for me with gum inflammation.

    • ReverendTed says:

      If we can assume your dental hygiene and dietary habits remain constant, then I’d be liable to chalk up “more stress=more plaque” to a depressed immune response.
      Plaque requires bacteria and food, though it’s primarily bacteria. If your immune system is depressed due to stress, that might allow the bacteria to proliferate more easily.

      Hereditary factors may (and probably do) play a role, but the bacteria that cause tooth decay and periodontal disease are transmissible, and you’re not born with them. The most common mode of transmission is from caregiver to child, from sharing utensils, “sampling” food, kissing on the mouth, etc. In some cases, also passed down are familial dietary/hygiene habits.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      The more stress might mean a dryer mouth which might help facilitate things like plaque.

      . If you need a pick me up due to stress coffee can sometimes stain teeth. Alcohol might dry the mouth. As can certain tooth pastes-increased intense brushing might leave too much flouride which can look like a brown stain.

  68. bumblefoot2004 says:

    Wow! $1,136? You’d be getting clean teeth and getting screwed at the same time. Hope the dental assistant is hot and very booby.

  69. ModernTenshi04 says:

    I had to have a deep cleaning done a couple years ago. I hadn’t been to the dentist in a long ass time, basically all through college, and yeah, it got sorta bad. I don’t remember it costing that much, but I was still on my parent’s insurance, so I didn’t care too much. By that time they had me paying the costs, though, and I think it was a bit more than $100 for both sessions. I say both because that’s how my dentist does it, and is apparently the recommended method. You’ll go in, and they’ll numb the upper and lower jaw on either the left or right side only, then you go in a week later and they do the other side. That way they don’t numb your whole mouth in one go.

    The procedure is legit, because what’s happened is buildup has gotten bellow your gum line, so deep that cleaning it during a regular cleaning would be EXTREMELY painful (they’re going BELLOW YOUR GUM LINE HERE). They need to get the buildup out of there, otherwise it’ll continue to eat away at your teeth, and at that deep it’ll eventually start eating away at the bone in your jaw, which doesn’t grow back apparently.

    The cost is what seems extremely abnormal, though. Sounds like they’re trying to take you through the ringer.

    I think you’d be fine waiting a bit until you have insurance again, but don’t wait too long.

  70. careful it might be hot says:

    Some DDS’s are great, others are just the worst. If you have an expensive treatment plan, get a second opinion. Scaling and Root Planing is tedoius, fine, painstaking work (no pun intended), and yes it can be expensive. We always had our patients sign off, that we recomended scaling and root planing and the patient understands that “just a cleaning” (removing plaque and tarter above the gum line) would not help any gum disease. I worked for a DDS in a rural town (pop 500) and his work was excellent and less expensive than the “city” DDS’s. The practices that offer $50 cleanings usually have a liability that that price is effective only in the absence of periodontal (gum) disease. If your gums bleed or are a bit red and puffy this is a sign of gingivitis which is an early form of gum disease, which disqualifies you for the $50 cleaning. If you have access to a dental school, that is a great place to go. You will save a lot of money, but because it is a teaching school, it will take a longer time, but the treatment is top notch and everything is very carefully supervised. So if you have more time than money, that is the way to go.

    On the other hand, I was a sub at one office for a week and this DDS was a real piece of s***.
    As a dental hygienist I cannot diagnose. So if a patient asks, “So do I have any cavities?” by law I cannot say yes or no but usually reply, “There are a couple of spots Dr. DDS needs to check. Well this one piece of s*** where I subbed, oooh this just makes me so mad to think about it, “Hi Mr. Smile, hey, looks great, everything looks real good, see you in a year” when there was obvious decay. Why charge $ for a filling when in a couple of years you can charge $$$ for a crown and maybe $$$$ for a root canal, too. The patient’s just loved this guy too, hey why not, he never found any cavities!! Also this was when dental HMO and PPO’s came out. Say for instance (hypothetically, as I have no idea what the amount would be) for each person enrolled in the plan he received $1500. Well, any work he actually provided would come out of that, thus reducing his profits. When patients would ask if they needed to come back in 6 months, his reply was, “Everything looks so good, you’re doing such a great job, let’s make it a year.” All his patients had nothing bad to say about him, oh he was just the greatest DDS. I worked for him for just that one week, I just couldn’t do it. Especially when some of these kids rally needed sealants or had small cavities starting. The kids were really happy when they were told they didn’t need flouride treatments (they cost about $2 to $3, out of pocket to the DDS, what a cheapskate!) Makes me sick…Karma, my dear DDS…Karma. Most DDS’s like thier job and are honest and ethical. If you ever have any doubt get a second opinion. If they vary like night and day, get a third. The best thing is if they have an intra-oral camera. Then you, the patient, can see what we see…

    I have been a Certified Dental Assistant for 25 years and a Licensed Dental Hygienist for 12, I love my job 98% of the time, and am still passionate about the work that I do!

  71. zombieite says:

    I’ve had mild gum disease for the past few years. I just had this procedure. It was $500 and my insurance covered it 100%. They did it all in one day. It hurt like hell. IANAD (I am not a dentist) but it seems like it was pretty effective at getting all that piled up gunk out of the gumline.