Corporate Dentistry: Beware Before You Go

How comfortable are you being seen as money to a dental office and not as a person?

Honestly, until yesterday, I was biased with my own jaded perspective on corporate dentistry from my experiences, which mostly have been negative. Here’s what happened:

I went into an art gallery and began talking to the gallerist. She said she had a broken tooth and needed an implant. Well, of course, a conversation ensued about dentistry. I asked her who she was seeing and she mentioned the name (which I will omit), and I replied, “That’s a corporation you know.” Her response amazed me, “Fine with me! I love the dentist and their technology. As long as they do a good job.” I impulsively said, “They tend to over-diagnose, over-treat…….,” but she was still smiling so I stopped myself, regrouped and said, “If you can afford it and you’re happy, that’s all that matters.”

However, I suppressed my biggest pet peeve; a corporate dental office is motivated by profit first and foremost. The gallerist didn’t seem phased by my hinting, but if a corporation meddling in your mouth matters to you, read on.

Corporate Dental Offices Tend to Over Diagnose

My first introduction to corporate dentistry was when the first one moved to town. A teen and his mom came for a second opinion to the dental office I was working at with a huge treatment plan from this corporation. First, the dentist saw him, made his treatment plan, then, I saw him for a cleaning. With both treatment plans in front of me, I did my own exam, and I concurred with the dentist I worked for with one exception.

The corporation had overdiagnosed by several thousand dollars and I felt horrible for this low-income family. This quickly spread through the office as we were all shocked. A few years went by and several more corporations crept up, and several more patients came in for second opinions, and I’d say 7 times out of 10 the corporate treatment plans over diagnosed. Ironically, corporate offices piqued my curiosity as I wanted to learn more about them, and wasn’t opposed to working in one sometime so I could find out.

I have now had two experiences working in corporate dental offices, one national, and one regional. They both started with a morning huddle like I had never known before. The discussions didn’t go something like this, “Mrs. Cantu lost her husband last week and she has a toothache,” but more like this, “Mrs. Cantu has a bridge 5 years old and is now eligible with her insurance, so let’s treatment plan that. Our goal today is $15,000.” Brutal, yes. And it goes on and on. Look, people need dental work, and you would think legitimate treatment planning would meet any dentist’s financial goals, but you certainly wouldn’t want to be a patient during a corporation’s slow month!

See my blog, Corporate Dental Offices; How to Navigate

Dental Staff is Too Complicit with Financial Goals

It’s also disturbing to witness the office staff swayed and altered by the financial demands. They’re not selling vacuum cleaners folks, they’re using your teeth, your mouth, your health, to meet their goals. It’s extremely uncomfortable for me to start the morning seeing patient’s names on the schedule accompanied by dollar signs; from the moment patients enter the waiting room, it is not their person who is seen, but how much money will be received from them.

Corporate pressures change employees and frightens me to be around co-workers who so easily can negate their integrity as healthcare providers. It’s not my scene. I don’t want to be told what products I have to push on patients, let alone, lying about the urgency of treatment. I have to believe if I’m uncomfortable working in a corporation, you might be uncomfortable as patient under corporate dental care.

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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