Corporate Dental Offices: How to Navigate

When corporate dental offices are holding your X-rays hostage know your rights.

First read my blog, Corporate Dentistry: Beware Before You Go to decide if this type of office is for you. I’d like to also include what I call “Boutique,” dental offices, where similar to corporate dentistry, their priority is cash care, not patient care.

Why I Wouldn’t Work in a Corporate Dental Office

A few years back I was out of work and desperately looking for a dental hygiene position. I received a call from a well known local dentist who had received a recommendation and offered me a job right over the phone. His office’s reputation was already known to me as high-end which was tempting, but when he said, “Our office doesn’t process insurance, everyone pays cash,” my entire body felt sickened. I heard myself say, “Not taking insurance isn’t for me. I couldn’t be proud of that.” Even though corporate offices take insurance, actually milk them for all they can get, I’m not a fit in either a boutique where there’s exclusion or corporate where inclusion is for selfish reasons. It’s your prerogative to decide where you fit in and feel most comfortable.

Before starting any new office, get referrals from trusted friends, family, and/or co-workers, and ask them all the questions important to you.

Corporate Dental Offices: How to Navigate with These Questions

  • Do you know if it’s a corporation or a private dental practice?
  • Does the office take insurance?
  • Is there high dentist or staff turn over?
  • Does it feel like they are selling dental work to you? Or do you feel like they’re trying to convince you?
  • Does it seem like every time you go they find something new needing treatment?
  • Are the problems needing treatment easily visible to you? Does it seem like you really need everything they’re saying or do you sense overkill or pressure?
  • Are there add ons they seem to recommend, even at cleaning appointments, whether you need them or not, such as fluoride varnish?

If you receive a large treatment plan, I always recommend a second opinion. Even if you have all the money in the world, dental treatment can be invasive and sometimes can cause something small to become much bigger or much higher maintenance down the road.

Corporate Dental Offices are Notorious for Holding your Dental X-Rays Hostage

One of the biggest obstacles to second opinions is obtaining your dental X-rays. Time and time again, I have witnessed repeated requests for X-rays from corporate offices completely ignored, which in itself is a major red flag. There’s one particular office in Santa Fe, where we have NEVER been successful in receiving dental X-rays from them. HIPAA gives you a right to your X-rays, and you have a right to the images of your teeth even if you owe money, https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/medical-records/index.html.

Panorex X-ray

The dentist has ownership of the original X-rays, but you have a right to a copy of the X-rays, and now with digital, it’s easier than ever to simply email. After unsuccessful attempts to your X-rays, I often recommend going to notorious offices with your smartphone in hand and inform the office manager of your HIPPA rights. Show them the link above if you have to and let them know you are not leaving until you see the email come in from them. I think it’s always best to have your dental X-rays in your own possession, then you can forward them to any office you like, however, you may have to request them to be unencrypted.  If they still refuse to email your X-rays, let them know your right to file a complaint and show them the tab from the HIPAA link above where you can access that.

Beware of Corporations Offering In-House Payment Plans

As far as payment, beware of corporations offering in-house payment plans. This is very appealing for many, but unfortunately corporations can abuse this offering. The two major fears of dentistry are the fear of pain and the fear of money, as the fear of the expense of treatment seems to outweigh the fear of pain more and more in the times we’re in. I can only imagine the relief when one is told of the opportunity and ease in making payments.

Remember, corporations are out to benefit themselves, and with their own financing there’s a huge possibility of over treatment planning, with the assumption you have been relieved of your biggest fear, the money involved in going to the dentist. There have been corporations, of which I will omit names, sued and investigated for over-charging and/or over-treating their payment plan customers. You may want to do a little internet research on the dental office before you go. Also, if you have insurance, I would always read your statements for services the office billed out for you and be sure you recognize all the charges. You should always be able to question the office you are going to and receive answers agreeable to you. The more aware you are, the more you can deem your dentist trustworthy.


Author: Cari

Cari has been a practicing dental hygienist for over 30 years. She received her degree with honors and was selected for a rare internship at Eastman Dental School, Rochester, NY. She then went on to receive a BS in Social Work from Nazareth College, cum laude. She has practiced in a variety of offices in Santa Fe for almost 25 years, with dental hygiene experience that has spanned from public health to holistic private practice, to specializing in dental phobic patients. Her commitment to research with a life-long desire to learn is combined with her genuine drive to provide patients with a whole health knowledge base. Cari also brings her experience as a published writer to her role as an oral health blogger. She has written blogs and web pages for Beyond Borders Dental in her role as Director of Dental Relations and Education.

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