Mechanics get a bad wrap. There are multiple good ones; in fact, a good friend from college’s dad is a great mechanic with an excellent rapport in the community of Charleston – but it seems for every good mechanic there are at least 10 greedy ones. They’re a modern day pirate, of sorts; they hold your car hostage until you fork over an insanely large amount of cash in payment for “critical” repairs that are subjective at best, if not completely falsified. It’s hard to shed any light on these shady practices, and so they continue and give reason for all of the horror stories.
Dental Coupons…Possibly a Mistake?
Back in the spring, I purchased a $45 LivingSocial coupon for a dental exam, including x-rays and a cleaning. I hadn’t been to the dentist since before college, and so this seemed like a good, inexpensive way to get the update on my teeth. And so, I scheduled an appointment with Paddock Place in Mt. Juliet.
When I saw the exterior of the building, I was a little suspicious. It was one of those made-to-order stand-alone buildings that have propagated near malls in recent years, and a gaudy “NOW OPEN” banner was strung across the archway.
It was 8:30 in the morning, and there wasn’t a person in the waiting room. This should’ve been my first clue.
The benefit to being the only person in the place was that I didn’t have to wait very long at all. A pleasant dental hygienest led me to the back, and everything was very new and state of the art. Each dental chair had a small 18-inch flatscreen TV affixed to the wall across from it, and the interior decoration was very hip and modern. It was all quite swanky.
The dental hygienest was a sweet girl, but kept being distracted by the flatscreen TV as she prodded around in my mouth with the x-ray tool. It struck me as unprofessional at best, plus she kept misplacing the x-ray device and having to readjust it after I’d bitten down once.
She pulled out a new tool, a laser that can read the size of the cavity in your tooth. Anything above a 20 is a cavity, evidently. She poked each tooth with the laser, with one reading a 39. No other tooth registered above 20. “The laser isn’t registering the cavities,” she explained, and I wondered — what’s the point in having such fancy technology if it isn’t accurate? Aren’t lasers super accurate?
She then pulled up my x-rays, asking me if I knew how to read them. I said No. She pointed out a few problem areas, suggesting I probably had at least 6, but she didn’t know for sure.
The dentist arrived, finally, and he didn’t seem to be much older than I. He too prodded around in my mouth as dentists do, offering no comments or consolation as he did so. Once he was done, the x-rays from my teeth flashed up on the screen.
“Do you know how to read an x-ray?” the dentist asked me.
“I’ve seen them before, but I guess not really,” I conceded, shrugging a little.
He proceded to point out several tiny black triangles nestled on either side of almost every tooth. “See these? These are cavities.”
My heart sank. I couldn’t count them all. “Is that…every tooth?!” I asked in shock.
He smiled. “Well, not EVERY tooth, but you have eleven cavities.”
I knew I’d eaten a lot of Skittles in college, plus at least one soda per day on most days I’d been on set. All that sugar was adding up, and now I had to pay for it. But something didn’t seem right.
The dentist explained I could only do one tooth at a time if I wanted to, or as many as I wanted at once if I wanted to. He was flexible. No sooner had he left did another lady come in with an itemized treatment plan. My eyes were immediately drawn to the total at the bottom. $1,100.
“So, this is the estimate for your first four teeth,” she explained.
I almost choked. $1100 for FOUR TEETH. How would I afford this?! That’s nearly $3,000 for all eleven teeth!
“And we can do as many or as few as you want to – a little bit at a time seems to be best,” she said with a reassuring smile. When I didn’t say anything, she pressed me further. “We can get you started right away, today.”
I nearly laughed at her, but composed myself. “Ummm, I have to go to work,” I managed, thinking who are these people that think I can just hang out all day at the dentist’s office?! Are they out of their minds?! I hadn’t overheard anyone else come into the building in the hour and a half I’d been in there. It was all making me feel very uncomfortable. I knew I had to leave.
I made it out of there that day, scheduling an appointment to have two teeth fixed for a whopping total of $450.
On my drive from the dentist’s office to work, I began thinking of I how I was going to pay for all of this. Spread over 6 months it wouldn’t be as bad — but $3,000 is quite a chunk of money! I began thinking of sacrificing a future trip, and how I’d seriously need to start thinking of finding a new gig immediately after my stint on Day Jobs came to a close. I told my mother the bad news, and she was just as disheartened as I was. Things were looking rather bleak.
It wasn’t until I talked it all over with Jeanette, my colleague and former dental assistant, that I began questioning the legitimacy and decency of this dentist.
“Eleven cavities?” She shook her head. She didn’t believe it. “When I was a dental assistant, even the people who never brushed their teeth didn’t have that many cavities. You don’t strike me as someone who never brushes their teeth. I’d get a second opinion. Three grand is a lot to spend. It couldn’t hurt.”
I began replaying my visit to Paddock Place over in my head. Clue I: No patients. Clue II: Fancy equipment that couldn’t have been paid off yet. Clue III: “Can you read x-rays?” Clue IV: “We can get you started today.”
The Value and Importance of a Second Opinion
You hear it a lot in movies – people get second opinions for dire health problems. I hadn’t really considered doing it – ever – until Jeanette raised the red flag over Paddock Place.
I scheduled an appointment with Bill Robertson over in Bellevue. He came highly recommended from a good work comrade of mine, and he’d been in the business for well over two decades.
Dr. Robertson’s daughter greeted me cheerfully at the front desk. I asked her some preliminary questions about costs, and she was extremely honest and helpful. She could see I was a bit nervous. “My dad is great,” she promised. “Of course, I’m biased, but he really is good at what he does.”
That put me at ease a little. A middle aged man came out of the dentist’s chair, and shook hands with Dr. Bill. It was obvious they’d known each other for years. I was feeling more at home.
Dr. Bill was professional and nice; immediately likable in a genuine way. He commented on the x-rays I’d brought and how they hadn’t been taken very well. I laughed as I remembered the dental hygienist fumbling around with the x-ray prod.
After he studied my x-rays and looked in my mouth, he reached his conclusion.
“You don’t have eleven cavities,” he said.
“You have two. I have no idea where they got eleven from.”
I lept out of the chair and did a little dance in celebration, and Dr. Bill laughed at my jubilation. I suppose he’s not used to people celebrating when they find out they have cavities, but TWO is a hell of a lot better than ELEVEN.
I was even more ecstatic when I found out the price: $265. That’s it – for both teeth. Apparently I have one tooth with two bad surfaces, and another tooth with one bad surface. I compared it to my four-tooth treatment plan from Paddock Place. Each tooth had at least 3 affected surfaces, according to him – and that was just for the first four teeth.
Malpractice or Fraud, Anyone?
I’m currently building my case to report the Paddock Place dentist to the Tennessee Board of Health. The guy is a crook. How many other people has this guy duped? Likewise, how many dentists are defrauding the American public every day? How many health professionals are prescribing unnecessary treatments or surgeries just so they can pay off their new equipment (or, ironically, their malpractice insurance?)
It’s just like taking your car to a corrupt mechanic. Of course you need that new serpentine belt for $450, we’ve already fixed it for you, pay up… only instead of a hunk of metal that ultimately means nothing, it’s you.
Anyway, this was a long-winded post with a very simple message: If you find yourself met with an unbelievable diagnosis and even more incredulous bill in the realm of health – especially in the dentist’s office – seek that second opinion. For an extra $50, I saved myself at least $2700 — plus any future costs of crowns that I would’ve needed as a result of the Paddock Place guy tearing up almost all of my teeth.
The other moral of the story is to stay away from Paddock Place Dental in Mt Juliet, TN and check out Dr. Bill Robertson. If every dentist were like Dr. Bill, the general loathing of going to the dentist wouldn’t exist!