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?