Aspen Dental / unneeded procedures / hidden charges
The following takes place after just one visit to Aspen Dental:
After using the same dentist for 15+ years, I had a change in insurance and was forced to find a different dentist. Despite all of the complaints I had read about Aspen Dental, I chose to go through a new patient visit and have x-rays taken. After waiting for 30 minutes past my scheduled appointment time I was finally called in for my x-rays. Following the x-rays I was directed back towards the area where the dental chairs were (which all had tv's attached to them...expensive?). I sat there and watched CSPAN for another 25-30 minutes before the dentist came over to talk with me. After glancing at my x-rays she told me that she already saw a few cavities. She finally came over to examine my mouth. She mumbled something about more cavities and gingivitis, never giving me a good explanation of what she saw. Now, I had waited 1 year after my last cleaning (and I had regularly gone for cleanings every 6 months for the past 15 years or so), so I thought maybe it was possible that I had a cavity or two. She told me I had 8! And she told me that there are two more that I need to keep an eye on because they could become cavities. I was shocked. I'm not going to say I brush after every meal or floss every day, but I take pretty good care of my teeth. I thought there was no way I had 8 cavities. But I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I sat down to talk to the "financial advisor" about the treatment I would need. Still shocked from learning I had 8 cavities I listened to the financial advisor tell me that a cleaning, some flouride treatment, and the filling of all 8 of my cavities would cost me $725 AFTER INSURANCE. What??!! Since I was recently laid off, there was no way I could fork over that kind of money upfront, so he convinced me to apply for a CareCredit account where I could make payments over 18 months to pay for the treatment. I scheduled my next appointments (the cleaning and the fillings) and left fairly upset.
I didn't get very far before a little something called cognitive dissonance kicked in. I felt like I was being ripped off. After confiding in some friends they felt the same way. I went back to Aspen to speak with the financial advisor and go over the charges line by line. According to my calculations, 8 cavities should run me $400 after insurance. What was the other $325? In the line items, there was a toothbrush that they were going to 'give' me for $135 (not covered by insurance); A full mouth debridement for my 'periodontal disease' $50; some mouthwash for $24; irrigation (?) for $35; some toothpaste for $24; and the list goes on. Most of those items were not covered by insurance.
I ended up calling my old dentist (who I trust a great deal) and asking him if he could check out my mouth and see if I really do have 8 cavities and gingivitis. He agreed to a limited consultation. I went to him a few days later and told him where they thought the cavities were. After a close examination (of 15 minutes or so - which was longer than the lady at Aspen looked at my teeth for) he told me that I have 1 cavity. ONE. Maybe two. NOT EIGHT! I was pretty mad. I told him about how they said I had gingivitis and they suggested that I have a debridement done. His demeanor went from disbelief to anger. He knew they were ripping me off. He explained how someone would need a debridement if they had hunks of tartar and what he called "calculus" on their teeth and bleeding gums etc. I have none of that. In fact, he took pictures of my teeth to show how I didn't have any problems like that. Then he showed me pictures of someone who did need debridement...yuck. As I said, he was upset that a dental office would be doing that to patients and charging them so much for it. He told me not to worry about paying for my consultation. I thought that was very nice of him.
I cancelled my appointments at Aspen Dental. I found out a week later that when they opened that line of credit so that I could pay for the future services, they already charged me the $725. They didn't do anything to me yet! I called and had them reverse it, told them I wouldn't be coming back and explained why. I wasn't mean. If the lady on the phone was willing to listen I would tell her the truth. She told me to be aware that different dentists have different opinions. Then she explained to me that when she came to Aspen Dental for a check-up, they told her she had periodontal disease too with 3 and 4 mm pockets (just like me) and her old dentist missed it because he was old and didn't keep up on his continuing education. I don't know how she could give me advice on dental work since she is a financial advisor...plus she works there! I'm sure she's paid to say they are the best.
I'm just still really frustrated with Aspen. I highly advise you to stay away from this chain. It's not worth the headache. Good luck to you in your search for a good dentist. As for me, I'm working on changing my insurance so that I can go back to my original dentist.
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