How Much Should the Dentist Cost?

A few hours before my dentist appointment yesterday, the office left me a voicemail warning me that the insurance I used last time I visited (err, 18 months ago) was no longer active. Of course I knew this, and was somewhat devastated by the reminder, but I also appreciated them calling to let me know. Did I call them back to ask how much the cleaning would cost without insurance? No, because I did not want to hear it.

I love the dentist I go to, if only because it is a short walk from my house and they have little flatscreen TVs with Netflix on them and the people who work there are really nice and the dental hygienist complains to me about her life and I like it. Basically, I like it because it’s fancy and because I’ve been there before so when I walk in I don’t have the ‘where do I go / what do I do’ panic.

When I showed up the woman at the front desk did not shame me for not having dental insurance, contrary to my subconscious fears, but did tell me I needed to pay her $200. “Right now?” I said. She said yes. I think paying before you go in is bullshit, but I still handed her my credit card. Sadly I was afraid it was going to cost way more than $200 — New York, Netflix, etc. — so I was a little relieved. Then she tried to sell me on a deal their office has where you pay $350/year for two cleanings and “discounts” on any necessary procedures. Ha! I told her that I might be moving soon so I didn’t want to risk it, and by “moving soon” I meant, there is no way I am going to get my teeth cleaned TWICE A YEAR without insurance.

When I came in my dental hygienist was like, “So it’s been awhile. What is up with that? Don’t you have insurance?” I told her I left my job and didn’t have insurance, which she accepted. Then she looked in my mouth and was like, “You still have your wisdom teeth. You never went to the oral surgeon?” At that point I was like, “NOPE!” and felt no guilt whatsoever. No, I did not go to the oral surgeon and pay thousands of dollars to get teeth that are not bothering me at all extracted from my head. Deal with it.

She then proceeded to scrape my teeth for a very long time and I had tears running down my face and was thinking how getting a chunk of my arm cut out because of a precancerous mole was definitely preferable to this because at least there was anesthesia. And she’s like, “You have GOT to start flossing. I mean, I’m just going to assume you don’t floss.” I’m lying there on my back with my mouth open, and paying $200 for the privilege, and suddenly feel the urge to defend myself.

“I…floss! Sometimes. Not every day.” She asked me if I remembered how she taught me to floss. Yes I do but it is horrible and I don’t want to floss like that! “Yep! Under the gumline.”

Then I left and told the lady at the front desk I didn’t need to make another appointment because I am probably moving away any day now so yeah, wouldn’t wanna risk it.

On the walk home I was thinking about $200, and if that experience was worth it. On one hand, NO. On the other hand, what should it cost? I pay $80 for a haircut if you include tip, and this involved scraping plaque off of my teeth, and suctioning spit and blood out of my mouth, and like, getting sprayed in the eyes with whatever they use to do the polishing part (the worst). I don’t think I would perform that service on someone for less than $200, so I accept it.

Also for some reason I keep trying to sell this place on my friends and loved ones, even though they make me cry and shame me for my dental practices and I don’t even use the Netflix thing and they give me the hard sell on Invisalign™ every single time. Maybe I have dental Stockholm syndrome. Or maybe the fact that $200 for a teeth cleaning seems okay is a sign I have been in New York too long. Or that because medical billing is so arbitrary and unlinked to actual value that we have no idea how much it should cost.

Just last week I called about a medical bill that my pre-ACA calamity insurance didn’t cover and was like, “$1,780 for out-of-pocket, really?” She offered to put me on a payment plan. I raised my voice a little bit, said, “Really?!” a few more times and then she told me she would talk to someone and call me back. An hour later I answer my phone and she goes, “Okay, we can take it down to $780.” I gave her my credit card.

Photo: tuppus


97 Comments / Post A Comment

Allison (#4,509)

I haven’t gone to the dentist in forever because I’m convinced that I’ve got like 19 cavities and it’ll be a small fortune to fix and I don’t want to pay it so I just don’t go and let it and the guilt/worry get worse.

Also I hate the guilt trips. Can I just go in and say “I know, I know, I know, but if you start lecturing me I’m walking out with your instruments still in my mouth.”? Because I want to. These wouldn’t even be the people who watched me grow up and if it didn’t work for those dentists, why would it work from a stranger?

…I have some dentist related issues.

AitchBee (#3,001)

@Allison I want to find a new dentist so I can lay some ground rules, specifically: Just clean my fucking teeth. Don’t lecture me on flossing, don’t tell me I should be wearing a mouthguard at night, just tell me if anything if horribly wrong and clean my fucking teeth.

Allison (#4,509)

@AitchBee Right? If I’m on the border of another dozen cavities and have a tried this product? FINE. But the part where they make it a borderline moral issue and act like it’s the first time I’ve heard it. Just eff off.

Derbel McDillet (#1,241)

@Allison If it helps at all, Mr. McDillet hadn’t been to the dentist in about 15 years, didn’t floss, and had zero cavities when we finally got dental insurance. I’ve gone every 6 months pretty much since I’ve had teeth, floss regularly, and still end up with the occasional cavity.

Allison (#4,509)

@Derbel McDillet that does help! And is what I’ll tell myself the next time I have one of those teeth falling out anxiety dreams

Meaghano (#529)

@Allison I went 12 years without going! And had no cavities. Or they said I had the start of two and it was going to be expensive so I ignored it and the next place I went to (a year later) said I had no cavities, so pffft.

thejacqueline (#799)

@Allison I recently went to the dentist after not having gone for four years, and I didn’t have any cavities at all, (and I am not a vigilant flosser) so you might be fine.

The visit was about $500 in total because they took a few sets of x-rays along with doing a cleaning. My claims statement says I owe $78, but it looks like the dentists office only claimed $400 worth of procedure so an interesting conversation may need to be had when I actually receive my bill.

For perspective — this is in NYC, and the dentist is this uber-fancy “dentist to the stars!” who has invented a bunch of stuff. I did not know this before I booked the appointment, but the offices were beautiful and quite soothing so I will probably go back, provided all this billing stuff works out.

Cup of T (#2,533)

@Allison Cavities seem to be all about genetics + luck [+ fluoridated water?] I can’t say I’m the most assiduous flosser but I have yet to have a cavity [*furiously knocks wood*] Although I can’t remember the last time I went to a dentist so that may no longer be true

boogers mcgee (#4,474)

@thejacqueline I’m actually in the NYC area and desperately in need of a new dentist (the one I went to last time was awful and I am pretty sure I spotted rust on one of the instruments. So of course I didn’t say anything and proceeded to let him gouge me in the gums with this thing for the next hour). Would you be able to pass on the info of your glamorous dentist?

chic noir (#713)

@Derbel McDillet Does Mr. McDillet have a sweat tooth? Do you have a sweet tooth? Do you go to the same dentist?

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

Wait, did you not see a dentist at all? If so, totally not worth $200.

Meaghano (#529)

@LookUponMyWorks I did, I did! I mean, she did nothing but she did come in and look in my mouth.

EM (#1,012)

@Meaghano This is normal right? My dentist just comes in at the end of the appointment to look at my X-rays and poke around in my mouth.

lemonadefish (#3,296)

@EM That’s all I ever get, except for fillings time.

JuliaS (#5,364)

@meaghano you don’t have to see the dentist! I tell them when I go that I don’t have insurance and I just want my teeth cleaned and it makes it way cheaper. I’m not paying $90 for my dentist to come in and look in my mouth for 30 seconds.

snackcarts (#3,300)

Though I have health and vision insurance through work, I don’t have dental insurance and last year paid something like $900 out-of-pocket for two cleanings (I’m that person who goes every six months out of habit/because I’ve done it that way since before I had adult teeth), a set of x-rays, a normal filling, and a filling repair (I broke a filling on a piece of pizza in Scotland and waited two months to fix it, hoping it was just a seriously determined piece of food jammed between my teeth – SURPRISE, IT WASN’T – and in those two months the broken bit jammed into a filling in the tooth in front and messed that up, so really it was a repair on two different teeth/fillings) because I have the worst teeth, apparently.

I’m always a bit miffed when it’s $125/cleaning (and way more for anything else), but with my dental history it’s a price I’ve come to accept. Although my dentist suggested I get a panoramic x-ray at the princely sum of $600 (rude) so I stiffed him and had my orthodontist aunt do it for free so…sticking it to the man in a gentle way?

jfruh (#161)

I would love to see a Billfold article about WHY the inside-your-mouth healthcare system is almost entirely distinct from the every-other-part-of-your-body healthcare system, complete with different insurance regimes. Why doesn’t health insurance cover tooth and gum health? Is it like this in other countries?

Allison (#4,509)

@jfruh that is an EXCELLENT question, especially since dentists will preach “gingivitis is linked to heart disease!” and I know my mother’s medical adjacent job means she observed a hospital based oral surgery.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@jfruh I would also like to see this article, though I expect the answer boils down to “we’ve got a screwed up health care system.”

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

@jfruh And eyes! Eyes are weird too!

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Caitlin with a C Which is similarly insane, because guess what, if you can’t see you literally cannot get anything done. People with bad eyesight understand this. And there are so many children out there doing terribly in school because they need glasses!

missvancity (#146)

@jfruh It’s like that in Canada too! My provincially provided health insurance (I pay $20/month, based on my income) doesn’t cover any dental at all. My work provides “extra” insurance benefits, so that’s how my dental, massage, physio, prescriptions, etc is covered. I used to work in retail and didn’t have any extra insurance, so I didn’t go to the dentist very often. On the plus side, I was making such a small amount, that I qualified for prescription coverage from the government!

EM (#1,012)

@jfruh In Canada, dental (along with eye care and pharmacare) is not a part of the national public health care, with some exceptions (Quebec has full coverage for children under 18, there is some coverage for low-income and Aboriginal, etc). It definitely sucks, but it’s also very hard to change because there’s a lot of push-back from the institution.

gyip (#4,192)

@jfruh It’s like this in Ontario (Canada). It’s an issue, honestly. There was a push several years ago to extend government dental coverage to the poorest; there was a horrible, horrible news story about a gentleman who actually went blind from an infected jaw. But nothing came of it.

There’s also a half-assed program for free coverage for children in needy families, but I think you have to apply for it. And you have to be pretty poor?

We’ve actually lost government coverage in the last decade or two. Several years ago, eye exams were dropped, unless you have a severe condition, I believe; they now cost $75 a pop. Which I can take, but I know a lot of people can’t.

I absolutely believe dental coverage should be included. Same with vision care, including prescription glasses and prescription sunglasses (you can get early cataracts, and nobody who needs a prescription should wear non-prescription sunglasses!)

Beaks (#3,488)

@jfruh I have distant memories of my student health insurance covering really catastrophic dental stuff (on the “had a tooth knocked out” level).

Honestly, I’m not entirely convinced regular cleanings or eye exams really need to be insured- most vision and dental insurance costs more annually than paying out of pocket unless someone else is subsidizing it, because checkups are such a regular/ predictable expense. And insurance, in principle, is for unforseen risks. Root canals, chipped tooth- sure, insure those. But cleanings? Seems like straight up subsidies make more sense.

questingbeast (#2,409)

@jfruh It’s a bit the same in the UK- free if you’re a child/pensioner/on benefits, otherwise you pay. Which, isn’t terrible, but still a bit odd that you can walk in off the street with an ailment in absolutely any other part of the body (except, again, eyes) and it’s completely free.

toninator (#3,522)

@jfruh It is like this in Australia too. Public health covers everything but dental unless you are under 18, on a pension or earn less than $24,000 a year. There must be a global conspiracy of dentists that they are the one exception.

I am sticking my head in the sand about a root canal until I can get time off and plan to combine a holiday in Asia with some medical tourism. I had a great experience in Thailand a few years ago, mostly the fact it was cheap, but also that the dentist was so friendly and non judgmental.

missvancity (#146)

I think my dentist charges about $125ish, and my insurance covers 85%. I see him ever so briefly, when he comes in to poke around, but mostly it’s the hygienist. And I think there’s some rule that you are not allowed to work in people’s mouths if you don’t agree to shame them about flossing. I FUCKING FLOSS, OKAY? Just because I make an effort to not make myself bleed all over the place doesn’t mean I don’t have good dental hygiene!

missvancity (#146)

@missvancity Also, my insurance will only pay for a cleaning every nine months, so my tricky dentist tried to get me to come in for scaling every six months. My insurance won’t pay for it, so I said no.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

Sometimes you can find Groupons for dental exams, FYI. I’ve not done it but a friend relies on it.

Meaghano (#529)

@BananaPeel Yes! There are a bunch in New York. I was telling Mike Dang about my place today and then found they have a groupon for a $39 cleaning/x-rays/check-up visit. You have to be a new patient but it seems like you could just slowly move from dentist to dentist getting bargain cleanings.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@Meaghano Pretty sure that’s what my friend did — just bounced around dentists.

ThatJenn (#916)

@BananaPeel YES this is how I got my dentist and it was SUCH a good idea. (I now go back with no discount and no insurance because they’re reasonably priced – about $125 for a regular cleaning, etc. – and I like them.) I had dental insurance for a minute, but I looked at the price vs. the reviews online for the dentists covered and decided I didn’t want to go to them. So I go to one I like, without fail, pay a bunch but at least I feel OK about the future of my teeth. It’s an investment.

When I went there for the first time a couple years ago on the Groupon, I hadn’t been to the dentist in 6 years. I didn’t have any cavities (I’ve got good genes, I’m not even gonna call that about my dental hygiene because my flossing was super-irregular back then), but my gums were so sad after that first cleaning that it convinced me that I really need to go regularly. (I went last week and it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. Regular cleanings = great.)

jquick (#3,730)

I think my dentist charges $100 for a cleaning. Remember, this is preventative maintenance …you get this done so that something worse doesn’t occur. And you really should floss. But I think you will get hounded wherever you go re flossing. I’m a religious flosser and then even get on me.

ShellB (#5,868)

Hi, it’s me, your friendly dental hygienist friend. Dentists are hygienists are ethically and legally responsible to tell you to how to improve your dental hygiene if it needs improving. And 95% of people who care enough to go to the dentist still aren’t keeping their teeth clean enough daily. Gum disease (periodontitis) is no joke and treating its advanced progression in middle age is very, very expensive and painful. If you don’t like your dentist/hygienist or feel like they try to “upsell” you, go to a different office. And floss your fucking teeth you disgusting slobs.

Allison (#4,509)

@ShellB honestly if they just said it like this I could probably handle it better.

honey cowl (#1,510)

@ShellB IS THIS REAL? Wow.

ETA: I guess this is why my dentist is so mean? They all harbor this same secret rage?

Ellie (#62)

@ShellB Wow – I completely agree! I am honestly pretty shocked by all these comments. I love going to the dentist and having clean teeth. The feeling of clean teeth makes it all worthwhile. I realize that dental phobia is a real thing but getting your teeth cleaned is FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR from the worst experience you can have in terms of discomfort and I genuinely cannot believe that people are expressing such dislike about it. I go to get my teeth cleaned and examined twice a year and floss every day (sometimes more than once a day), brush my teeth after every time I eat, use an electric toothbrush, and wear my retainers and a mouthguard every night. Like everyone else, I also work full-time and do a lot of other things so it is actually possible to be a real person and do these things. I don’t understand how people can be so lazy as to NOT FLOSS and brush teeth often enough when it’s so good for your teeth.

@ShellB Yeah sorry this comment is bullshit. You can be ethically and legally responsible without being a dick.

Allison (#4,509)

@Ellie the smell and taste of mint makes me nauseated, so 95% of dental products are ones that make me want to hurl. So that fresh and clean feeling never reall worked for me. Now they’ve got citrus/cinnamon flavors for stuff like toothpaste, but the whole routine is basically tainted by years of me HATING everything about it.

KittyConner (#3,108)

@ShellB Wow. I am not a disgusting slob and my anxiety that ALL dental providers think the way you do is what keeps me from regular maintenance and cleanings even though I genetically have terrible teeth.

So hey, thanks asshole. Really appreciate knowing this about hygienists.

bgprincipessa (#699)

I went to the dentist today! For the first time in… (drumroll) 5 years! The best part? I had dental coverage that whole time. I’m the worst, is what I’m saying. My appointment today was COVERED. And I had x-rays done! I have to go back to get a filling replaced, and it will be 80% covered. Why was I avoiding this?! Soon I probably won’t have dental insurance anymore, and then I’m really going to kick myself.

But your description of the experience was completely spot on. This was my first time ever going to a new dentist besides my childhood one, and man that place was nice. I felt right at home.

Beaks (#3,488)

@bgprincipessa I’m at least a year + behind on cleanings, which is pretty much par for the course for my post-living at home dental visit history (insured for about 90% of that, too). So….should probably get on that.

lemonadefish (#3,296)

I think I / my insurance just paid about $185 for a cleaning with X-rays (in a very small city). I go every six months, because I have not-great teeth, and often have a cavity. This time, after having been there only six months ago, I have TWELVE CAVITIES. Thanks, fetus! It will be nearly $3,000 to fix them, and the insurance only pays $1,000 / year (which includes what they paid for the exam). Super. (I’m not getting them filled until after I deliver this summer, because I refuse to have drills in my mouth if I’m not on nitrous – though the dentist said if any of them start bothering me to come in right away.)

(Also I would like to point out that every hygienist ever says I have a remarkably clean mouth. Just, so you all don’t think I’m a disgusting slob on account of my entire mouth is rotting out of my face.)

ATF (#4,229)

Ha. I just went to the dentist for the first time in over four years in November. No insurance meant no way in hell was I going to go even though I had a back molar that was starting to get a bit achy when I had something super hot or really cold to drink. I just kept thinking I for sure had a giant cavity and the cost to remove the filling there and fix it would cost $$$.

Turns out I had cracked the second to last molar straight down to the root. The dentist said it was likely the result of biting on something funny and that I hadn’t noticed it more because of the way I bite – I apparently don’t use that particular tooth all that much when I chew – and that it was protected in a way by the tooth behind it due to the close spacing of my molars.

I needed a crown in the end but no root canal. Still cost me $425 to have this done ($25 deductible and insurance only covered 60% of the procedure). Which is why I hate dental insurance so much. I’d rather pay more a month and have things like crowns fully covered than wind up with a $425 bill.

Allison (#4,509)

@ATF a coworker once said “dental insurance is like a coupon.”

PicNic (#3,760)

I could talk about the dentist ALL day. How much time do you have? I am obsessed with my dentist (in Coolidge Corner for Boston folks that may want a rec!).

I grew up with a single mom who couldn’t afford to take me to get my teeth cleaned regularly and I was TERRIBLE at brushing my teeth/flossing. I went to this guy about 6 years ago because I had a tooth in the back of my mouth that was literally falling out of my skull and was infected. He needed to do an emergency root canal and I had no money. He assessed my mouth and I basically needed about $10k worth of work between cavities, root canals, etc (and this is AFTER my dental insurance – he said it was a combination of neglect/genetics) and suggested I get a care credit loan, which I couldn’t get for various reasons. Since that day he has done some pro-bono work on me and whenever I needed something done that cost a lot, I would only have to pay half that day and the rest $50/week as long as it took.

Also – I was super scared to go because of a ridiculously traumatizing experience I had as a kid and would cry just getting my teeth cleaned – they prescribed Valium for pretty much every visit for my first year and recently I went in for some work on a tooth (post-root canal) with no Novocaine or Valium.

tl;dr – go to the dentist! he can be your friend and maybe you’ll meet a nice greek man like me who will be fatherly and cut you a deal. also – sorry for the yelp review

emilia (#5,496)

@PicNic who is your dentist?!?!? I am in Boston and have been looking Forever! He sounds saintly!

PicNic (#3,760)

@emilia it’s Dr. Papadopoulos at Beacon Place Dental Group in Coolidge Corner. The hygienist I see is Christina, who is also lovely

meatballsub (#5,401)

@PicNic Ooh I am writing this down! My place is Tremont Dental which is great but sometimes I feel like they tell me I need things I don’t need.

PicNic (#3,760)

@meatballsub The only thing they’ve ever recommended was when I first started seeing them and they said I should get a sonicare electric tooth brush. and I did, and I love it so it was obviously totally worth it (previously I had been using non-electric tooth brushes because apparently I was a heathen). Definitely give them a call! I love throwing business their way

meatballsub (#5,401)

@PicNic Every dentist I’ve been to has tried to sell me on an electric toothbrush and I’m always like YA BURNT I already got one! I love the Sonicare too but mine broke and I went to Oral-B. Big mistake, stick w/Sonicare b/c it’s much better!

EM (#1,012)

I’m in Canada, and my extended health covers my semi-annual cleanings and x-rays, but I am pretty sure they are about $120 each time.

I definitely with all my heart believe that dental care should be publicly funded, but generally, unless you have no disposable income at all, you should probably cough up for your cleanings, which are very important to your long-term health even if they are deeply unpleasant.

Cup of T (#2,533)

@EM Cosigned on dental care being publicly funded- if nothing else, it probably saves a lot on ER visits down the line in terms of infection (spoken as someone who has done zero research on the subject but would like to go to the dentist for free again- I miss Canada…)

ThatJenn (#916)

@EM Yeah, publicly funded dental care would be the best. It’s kind of amazing when you start looking at studies of different health outcomes for people who have access to free regular dental care and who don’t (which our dental school studies here). Everything from heart health to pregnancy complications is majorly affected.

gyip (#4,192)

I guess $200 seems OK if you go once a year. If you go more often, I feel like you should get a discount, but I guess that wouldn’t work for dentists.

Based on what my parents shopped around for, I think $100 is reasonable. I get the point about a haircut costing $80, but I think teeth care NEEDS to be affordable.

I ask for freezing at my dentist and he does it. I think he does charge extra, but my work insurance covers most of the rest of it (yay) so it’s worth it to me.

Sloane (#675)

I’ve never had dental insurance, even though I’ve had a lot of dental issues – probably would have been worth the premium. So I’ve always shelled out about $400 per year for the cleanings and x-rays (visits with x-rays are $225, without are $175). This year, i have to have a crown, which should be about $1,200. I’m probably going to do the payment plan, which will allow me to pay it off, no interest, in a year.

TaraB (#5,871)

All of you need to stop. Dental care is not a joke, and we are not out to get your money. Our goal is preventative care. To be honest, preventative care (coming to your cleanings every 6 months) costs MUCH less than coming as you please. Why? We can detect a small cavity before it becomes a root canal- thus only making you get a small filling vs a root canal and a crown (very expensive).
I am an dental hygienist. My job is to clean YOUR mouth, you know, the mouth YOU refuse to floss, the mouth YOU refuse to brush 2x a day for 2 minutes each time, and the mouth YOU simply don’t think about until it comes time for your dental appointment.
I hate how you can blame ME that your gums hurt during the cleaning, and be SHOCKED that you have a cavity when A) you haven’t been in for several years and B) you refuse to have good oral care at home. For the record, (98% of the time) bleeding gums are a direct result of BAD oral hygiene (not flossing and not having good brushing technique) and NO, I am NOT the one causing the bleeding in your mouth. Patients who DO have good oral hygiene don’t bleed at all.
You complain to me about all these things, but you can’t even spare 30 seconds a day to floss and 4 minutes a day to brush. Give. Me. A. Break. Preventative care FAR outweighs the cost of fillings, root canals, etc…. and that is dependent on YOU. YES YOU. So stop complaining to me about the cost to fix the decay YOU PUT IN YOUR MOUTH.
Complaining about cost? Go get your teeth cleaned at a dental hygiene school. The one I graduated from several years ago charges $10 per cleaning, which included everything- deep cleanings, xrays, fluoride, everything was covered. The only downside is time- each appointment lasted 3 hours.
There are also discount dental places you can go to get dental fillings/work done, and you can get stuff done at a dental school as well, though it’s hard to be accepted as a patient there.
Like @ShellB said, we are ethically and legally responsible to let you know how to improve your oral health. So be GRATEFUL that we take the time to let you know what you can improve. Many people don’t understand the common errors they make with oral hygiene, i.e. brushing too hard (it causes recession and is abrasive to your teeth), not keeping up with maintenance cleanings, not brushing frequently enough (I’ve met people who thought brushing once a WEEK was the best way to keep their mouth healthy), etc, etc.
For the record, grinding your teeth can be very dangerous to your oral health. Grinding places a huge amount of pressure on your teeth, which can cause your teeth to CRACK. SORRY that we felt like you should be aware of your grinding habit…. sheesh!
It’s a shame that so many of you complain so much about the dentist. YES it costs a lot to get RESTORATIVE work done. Preventative (cleanings) cost less. How much does it cost for you to maintain your health at home? $2 for a toothbrush, $2 for a toothpaste, $2 for floss. The power is REALLY in your hands. But you are too lazy, get decay in your mouth, and then vent your frustration- when it was YOUR fault you got the decay in the first place.
If you aren’t willing to get a cleaning at least once a year, then I simply cannot help you, and you are MAJORLY affecting your health. (Your oral health affects the rest of your body, FYI!) I gave suggestions for discounted dental work above, also someone mentioned using groupons.
And lastly, a regular cleaning is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than a deep cleaning. If you don’t get cleanings regularly, you are chancing that you will get periodontal disease. To quote @ShellB ” Gum disease (periodontitis) is no joke and treating its advanced progression in middle age is very, very expensive and painful.” The cleaning for periodontal disease alone in private practice costs over $1000. And after your deep cleaning, you’ll have to come get cleanings every 3-4 months just to MAINTAIN YOUR DISEASE- if you don’t, and your disease becomes active again, you’ll end up paying the $1000 for ANOTHER deep cleaning to start the process ALL OVER AGAIN! Just FYI- preventative care is key!

KimO (#2,021)

@TaraB Thanks for the info! Can’t believe some of your stupid lazy patients had the gall to complain about your total lack of empathy and self-righteous nightmare tone. :(

@TaraB Okay these comments are really pissing me off. Guess what: I brush my teeth two times a day, and floss my teeth, AND I still find going to the dentist to be a nerve-wracking anxiety creating experience. Thank GOD my dentists and their staff in my last two cities have been way nicer than you and ShellB up above because I definitely would not go back. Not to mention, Dickhead Dental Hygenists from MY CHILDHOOD who would mock me and make me feel like shit for not taking better care of my teeth, are the major reason why I have such severe dental anxiety now. I put off going to the dentist not because I am LAZY but because I have ANXIETY about BEING JUDGED by FUCKERS. LIKE. YOU.

Honest to god if I got this kind of tone from the people that I was paying to provide a service, I would never go back. And I have paid a lot of money in my life for dental care and thankfully it went to people who deserved it because they treated me with kindness and dignity.

Fucking. Jesus. Christ.

@redheaded&crazy Seriously maybe you charming folks should google dental phobia and dental anxiety which have absolutely nothing to do with laziness or disregard for dental health. I mean, you work in the profession, surely you should inform yourselves that anxiety, and specifically, dental anxiety, are also real and serious issues that can affect the rest of one’s health as well. I assure you, if this is the tone you’re taking towards your patients, you’re making the problem worse, not better.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@redheaded&crazy Yeah, the idea that dentists and support staff are secretly this big of assholes and also sometimes can’t be bothered not to act like drill sergeants DURING TREATMENTS is the reason we hate going to the dentist — and it’s the reason finding a good dentist who is firm but still kind is such a holy grail moment!

Allison (#4,509)

@TaraB thank you for proving all of our secret fears and reasons we don’t want to go to the dentist 100% true.

TaraB (#5,871)

@redheaded&crazy Dental anxiety has nothing to do with having good oral hygiene at home. That’s like saying an obese person who has an anxiety of seeing their physician will eat horribly as a direct result.

Yes, I AM aware of dental anxiety- I see it in varying levels every day that I work! There are different ways to relieve dental anxiety in the office- nitrous (laughing gas), blankets, stuffed animals, and some offices offer to put you out completely before treatment. Sometimes people can get a prescription to take valium (one time) before their dental appointments.

We aren’t judging you- when you come in, it is our responsibility to assess your oral care and educate you on how to improve. We are liable to tell you exactly what is wrong in your mouth and how to improve, if not, you could sue us for not letting you know you had a cavity/periodontal disease in your mouth. We have to be very specific, and I’m sorry that comes off as rude- but you really, really need to know!

My above initial comment was a direct result of the attitude people have about going to the dentist. I was trying to be clear that A) It’s not my fault it is expensive (I’m just an employee of the dentist!), B) It’s not my fault that you have certain conditions in your mouth, and C) For the majority of dental problems, the prevention is really in your hands (good home care). I was so frustrated about people’s tone towards the dental profession. My tone in response was the same as how I felt people were responding to this thread- attacking the dental profession.

I always am professional at work, just as I’d imagine you are always pleasant when you see the dentist. Obviously we’ve both shared our opinions on this online thread, but we’d never act this way in public.

I’m just trying to do my job. When you complain, act like I’m causing your dental problems, or act like dental care isn’t important, of course I remember, and sometimes I take it personally when people say “thanks for nothing, getting cleanings is such a waste of time!” When in fact I just provided you a very important preventative health service. My experience is years of cleaning a variety of people’s teeth. Most people are pleasant, some are not.

qwer1234 (#4,140)

@TaraB I know people must be total fucking assholes to you on a daily basis, but there are also really unscrupulous, incompetent, aggressively upselling dental practices out there, and I think a lot of us in this thread and the people you see every day have had the displeasure of being a patient at one or even several. It’s hard for us to trust dental professionals after experiences like those. That said, you’re right, it’s totally not your fault and we all really do have a huge burden of responsibility in it.

sproston (#5,993)

Dentists and hygienists seem to imply that with preventative care, your teeth will remain healthy throughout your lifetime, and if not, it’s your own fault. This is ridiculous, teeth being part of the body, age along with everything else. Dentists/hygienists should be adequately compensated for their work just as everyone else is, however, all this talk about ethical/legal responsibility is a lot of nonsense that probably goes out the door the minute your insurance runs out.
Patients, always remember it”s your mouth, you pay the bill, speak up, and don’t take rudeness. There are plenty of other dentists/hygienists out there that would probably love your business.

Joe Shmoe (#5,872)

I am a dentist in the US and this thread is really fascinating to me.
I certainly empathize with what a lot of people are expressing: the expense, feelings of guilt, fear because of previous experiences. I also see several hygienists have responded with their frustrations too. I hope that the general people can read the hygienist responses without feeling attacked they’re just trying to express themselves too.

I’m going to give you some insights into the other side of what it’s like on the dental side…if you care.
1. Why is it so expensive to go to the dentist?
a. It’s expensive for several reasons. A) Because we don’t have public education that trains us for free in the United States. I am $350,000 in debt to the government just for dental school – more than half of those debts are at 7% and 8.5%. This is special government loan debt which I have no opportunity to consolidate at a lower rate and no opportunity to ever default on (The government doesn’t allow you to declare bankruptcy on debt you owe it). I know several people who are graduating these days with $450,000-$500,000. That’s a lot of debt!
b. The supplies we use and the equipment we use is very expensive. To open a dental office it costs between $400,000 and $1,000,000. Whatever one pays on that debt load doesn’t include rent, employees (Hygenists, Assistants, Front desk staff, people to call your insurance company and figure things out for you) lab costs, etc..
c. That’s scary and risky as you can imagine. I’m currently working 6 days a week and barely making a dent in my overwhelming student loan. It’s just to give you a perspective.
2. Why does my dentist or hygienist always try to push things on me?
a. It could be that your dentist or hygienist is just trying to sell you something that you don’t need…however it’s more likely they see something wrong that you don’t. They’re looking into one of the few places in your body that you can’t see and don’t have much of an idea on. There’s a lot going on in there and my experience is that most people are trying to help people out…not be slimy to them like a car salesman. If you really feel that your dentist is just trying to sell you something then you should change dentists and find one that you trust. Trust doesn’t mean they won’t ever tell you that you need something…but maybe you won’t feel like they’re trying to just get money from you. Maybe they’re really trying to give you good advice.
3. I wish people would just clean my mouth and nothing else. Do what I tell you and stop telling me to floss.
a. This statement/idea is really demeaning and pretty mean. I think these are similar people who feel they can come in and just as for a prescription. My staff and I aren’t here to just give you a cleaning and send you on your way. We’re here to examine and look over the problems you have in your mouth, even though you might not know they are there. We’re here to find problems before they happen and help you address them. I went into this profession to make a difference and I want my staff to help me make that difference. I actually will tell patients that only want a cleaning and nothing else that I’m not the place for them and the colleagues I know feel similarly. The idea that the dentist just comes in and just pokes around’ your mouth implies that we’re not doing much. However I know that I am doing a lot: looking for Oral Cancer, gingival health, decay, fractures, or many other problems which you’ll never see for yourself. We’re ‘not a jiffy lube…you’re right that you can find places like that, but I would be suspect of anyplace that is going to just do cleanings on you and send you on your way. They don’t have your best interest at heart.

With all that long-windiness I think the point is that “these people” that a lot of people seem resentful towards because they: charge too much, suggest you floss more, and scare you- are not bad people trying to screw you over but are doing the best they can to help you do the best that you can.

LDW (#4,492)

Lots of dentist hate out there. On the one hand, I totally get it. When I was four I chipped my tooth and ended up at the mercy of a man who’d never worked with children and extracted without any anaesthesia! That said I also had lovely dentists after that. It wasn’t until I got braces that I begin to really dread anyone poking around my mouth.

When I was in college I spent a year calling alumni for donations. Calling dental school alumni was really interesting. They hated giving back to the school, and were all too happy to tell you exactly why. But they weren’t jerks about it. Instead they seemed incredibly frustrated both with the expensive training and the constant sense that people just don’t like dentists. I don’t know if this jives with @JoeSchmoe’s experience, and it certainly doesn’t make me any less anxious about seeing the dentist, but I would definitely like to hear more.

@Joe Shmoe Ok, you seem to be a reasonable person, so I’ll ask this question. Why does it seem to be such an accepted part of dental culture that it’s ok to be a judgmental asshole to your patients (reference the two comments above)? It’s not like dentists and dental hygienists are the only medical providers who see people not taking the best care of themselves. I know plenty of people who don’t like going to the doctor, but not on this anxiety level, seemingly because other doctors can manage to be more compassionate about it.

I’m not even in a medical field, and I get frustrated with coworkers and clients who do really stupid things every day, and yet I don’t feel the need to be a jerk about it. I understand that people are frustrating, but I truly don’t understand where this pervasive culture of judgment and condescension comes from.

Meaghano (#529)

@Joe Shmoe Thanks for chiming in! I cannot imagine working in a profession where you serve patients who basically universally hate going in to get treated. And also yes, it is one of those health fields where there is a weird gap between how we *should* be taking care of ourselves and what we are willing to do. I think you’re right, it’s because our mouths are kind of hidden and it’s all abstracted, and because flossing / not-flossing is basically a punchline. I am pregnant so it was particularly painful this time because of inflamed gums etc etc — I don’t blame the person working with me! But I was lying there thinking, this SUCKS, and it’s such a cliche, but it’s still true! I mean on what level is dental care *ever* pleasant? And the practice I go to, the people who work there are as nice and smart and compassionate as possible (though trying to convince me at 30 years old to get invisalign I am still annoyed by, but whatever!). Still it sucks! But I don’t blame you guys. SOMEONE has to be a dentist. Or many people. I am curious to hear what made you decide to do it!

honey cowl (#1,510)

@Meaghano ummmm congrats!!!!

qwer1234 (#4,140)

@Joe Shmoe I want to floss more, but my braces pushed my teeth together so much it’s actually REALLY difficult to get in there. WHAT DO I DO?!

NMRN (#5,874)

I live in the UK and visited my dentist last week for a check-up and clean (including plaque removal). Total bill was £18 for a ten minute appointment. Pregnant mothers and children pay nothing for dentist visits, since its all covered by the public National Health Service (NHS). Of course, UK citizens who are working pay a small amount each month from their salary into National Insurance Contributions, which gives them access to certain state benefits and contributes to the running of the NHS. The NHS is the publicly funded healthcare system of England. The NHS is in business to provide healthcare for the citizens of the UK, not to make a profit, which differentiates it from much of the healthcare system in the US. I have relatives living in the US who often comment on how much better the NHS is.

PicNic (#3,760)

@NMRN your cleaning only took 10 minutes?! When I go in for a cleaning between the scraping, the polishing, the flossing, and then the quick check with my dentist it is definitely 45-60 minutes

Eric18 (#4,486)

@NMRN Keep in mind that the NHS was funded by the U.S initially since the UK was, you know, bankrupt after WW2.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@Eric18 dude. the US gives foreign aid to many countries and sectors of its population for political reasons. No one is forcing the US to claim moral superiority over the world. Also, (as a Canadian), no one forced the US to enter the war TWO YEARS LATER than the rest of us.

Eric18 (#4,486)

@theotherginger Um, I think launching a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor kind of “forced” us to enter the war.
The U.S. may have technically entered the war two years later but they provided MASSIVE amounts of aid (Lend-Lease) in 1940 and ’41. Not to mention the massive amount of aid provided to the Soviets. Anyone who dismisses American involvement in the war before Pearl Harbor simply doesn’t know his/her history.
Of course the U.S. gave the money to protect it’s own interests. Western Europe benefited mightily from the Marshall Plan. I seem to remember the Warsaw Pact countries being forced to reject the American aid that was offered because of pressure from Moscow. How did that work out for them?

teecombes (#4,536)

Fun story about avoiding dental bills: My British husband and I had a last-minute trip back to the States for a funeral. Husband already had a bit of a toothache, but it got worse and worse until he couldn’t get out of bed due to the pain the day before out flight home. We couldn’t afford to move our flights or take him to the dentist for an emergency weekend appointment, so we smuggled some of my mom’s leftover vicodin into travel-size shampoo bottles which he nursed the entire flight home (via 2 connections including a 6 hour layover in Boston). Turns out the tooth had turned completely black, and once we got home the British dentist just ripped it out.

qwer1234 (#4,140)

@teecombes oh my god. This sounds like a nightmare. I’m so glad it didn’t ALSO have to end in American dental bills for you guys.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

I didn’t go to the dentist for a long time after college because I didn’t have dental insurance. I finally got a plan with my part time retail job, and I’ve been lucky to find a very sweet dentist who runs a side practice in my town – she has a main practice in NYC – and has weekend hours! Since my cleaning was going to be so thorough, lets say, she split them up so I wouldn’t die with all the pain (but charged me for the one cleaning). She also did this with my cavities because I had about 6 and etc etc. At my current job I have better dental insurance, and it’s better coverage, so yay.

Guys, flossing is so important! Take care of your teeth, it can affect other parts of your body. It does get annoying if your dentist is always reminding you to floss, but whatever – you don’t have to do it everyday. I’m a serial flosser now after having the initial series of painful cleanings – I keep one of those floss pic bags at my desk and after breakfast and lunch, excuse myself to the bathroom and go at it. I find the pics a lot easier to use than regular floss.

thegirlieshow (#5,285)

Another recommendation for Boston folks: Pondside Dental in JP. I went recently after having gone years with no dentist visits and I was prepared to endure some dental shaming but they were all crazy nice. Big relief and I will now be singing their praises to anyone who will listen.

KittyConner (#3,108)

Really feel like each and every one of my dental fears have been confirmed. Awesome, thanks so much, A+, would watch again.

I don’t understand why it is okay for dental providers of all kinds to be jerks and (apparently) straight up assholes. I get that no one really loves the dentist and that uncomfortable things are done and that no one *likes* being lectured about good behaviors.

But you know what, that’s exactly how you could describe a visit to the OB-GYN and yet you don’t hear about the wide-spread anxiety and hatred of going to see them. My last annual exam was painfully pokey and proddy and I got a lecture about getting close to my upper BMI number and not being as good as I should about pre-natal vitamins, but you know what, I didn’t leave the office feeling shamed and violated the way leaving the dentist office feels and the dentist is only all up in my mouth!

My doctor didn’t present herself as a paragon of virtue and me a lazy slob. She is empathetic and while encouraging and informing me of the best behaviors and practices, recognizing that I am only a human patient and so rather than “lose 20 pounds, okay fattie? Just do it or you be really fat and middle aged one day and THEN see how difficult and expensive treatment is. I do it, obviously and it is easy and you should too.” (Which is essentially what the dental providers above are saying.) I get “You’ve gained a bit since I saw you last. That new gelato place in town is so tempting, isn’t it? Try to get in a bit more walking and maybe a few healthy food swaps. We’ll keep an eye on it and I can get you some time with a dietician if you’d like or if you’re worried about it.” And I walk away disappointed in myself, sure, but confident I have an ally and that I’m NOT A BAD TERRIBLE SLOB OF A PERSON FOR NOT HAVING PERFECT HEALTH.

Does that doctor really just want to tell me “lose weight and take care of myself and be perfect, it’s not that hard!” Maybe. And maybe that feeling gets stronger after seeing the 20th person just like me or worse that day, but because she knows that it is smarter to be a partner in health, rather than an adversary, she would never approach things that way. She knows it is in everyone’s best interest to have patients WANT to come back and WANT to participate in their care.

Dentists seem to deal in shame and wonder why they’re disliked. Treat me as a human patient with human frailties and not just a gross mouth that you don’t want to really touch because it isn’t already perfect and isn’t doing exactly what it is told and maybe you’ll get somewhere.

lemonadefish (#3,296)

@KittyConner I’ve seen four dentists in my life, and none of them have ever shamed me. They used to always tell me to floss, until I started actually flossing regularly – now they don’t tell me any more! It’s amazing.

ifwecantaloupe (#2,654)

This made me realize that I haven’t been to the dentist in 3+ years due to no dental insurance, so I called a few dentists in my city to see what they charged. So far, I’ve gotten:
– $109 cleaning + $68 mandatory new patient exam
– $286 cleaning + mandatory x-rays of unknown cost
– $145 cleaning/checkup
– $250 cleaning/checkup + $45 to $160 for x-rays

The variation is really interesting, especially considering all these places have 5 stars on yelp are in the same general area (and in the same building, for two of them).

coastalelite (#2,528)

Hahaha I totally did the “moving soon, can’t make another appointment!” thing last time I go to the dentist too. I don’t even mind having my teeth cleaned so much–I just minded the fact that the hygienists always asked me a ton of irrelevant personal questions. The part that weirded me out was that they left me alone in the room for a few minutes and left a sheet of paper on the desk, which was a chronological list of all the answers that I’d given them over the years. For instance: “Graduating from college in the spring, doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life.” Is this really relevant to my dental care? I’m guessing it’s some kind of a customer service thing, but it made me super uncomfortable.

@coastalelite I guess it’s so they can ask you how that pet/kid/hobby/education is going and make small talk, so that you’re focused on mumbling around a mouthful of gear and not on how scared/uncomfortable you are. Either that or THEY ARE WATCHING YOU!

coastalelite (#2,528)

@bowtiesarecool I would totally be OK with talking about my pets and hobbies! But not like, the meaning of my life. That stuff stresses me out.

@coastalelite Yeah, the “doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life” part is kind of odd.

gyip (#4,192)

@coastalelite OMG THAT’S SO WEIRD. Kind of creepy?

honey cowl (#1,510)

I have pretty good teeth, I floss once a day (thanks college bf whose parents were both dentists), I get a good cleaning every 6 months, and yet I still feel horribly shamed and belittled every time I go to the dentist. I’m no longer surprised by this, if most hygienists have attitudes like the two above!

womb bat (#3,498)

Holy shit, after reading all these comments I can’t decide if I want to make a dentist appointment right away or knock my teeth out and call it good. I can get all the nutrition I need via a liquid diet, right?

I feel so, so grateful for my insurance that doesn’t require a copay for two cleanings a year and 1 x-ray a year (although if I want fluoride treatments, which I should really do, it’s not covered, and the filling coverage is laughably bad) and for my dentist that does not seem too offended by my sobbing anxiety at every appointment, and who doesn’t imply that I’m lying when I say that I floss every day, my teeth just turned to shit when I turned 25.

They exist! I promise!

@bowtiesarecool I am super grateful to my amazing dentists too. My last dentist was the sweetest man who very very very very VERY luckily for me gave me really good deals on all of the many cavities he filled after I ignored my dental health all through university. Why did I ignore my dental health? Well I was a stupid teenager who would occasionally go to bed after a night of drinking awful drinks without brushing my teeth. And not flossing. YEAH I SUCK. Oh yeah, and also my dentists in childhood were mean judgmental jerks who made each appointment anxiety-provoking and tear-filled. That plus sitting their with your mouth open hoping you don’t have another cavity because the drilling is so, so awful, is not exactly a fun experience to begin with. I could go on but thinking about all the reasons I don’t enjoy going to the dentist is not something I generally do for fun.

Anyway, dentist in toronto: does really good work. he basically worked on each quadrant of my teeth over the course of 4 appointments. plus my 2 root canals and the fillings for those. plus he was just extremely gentle and he would do things like count downs and letting me know when the drilling or the needles are done. And because of his kindness and excellent work I do honestly feel a lot more empowered to say my issues up front, and I’m so much better about doing things like scheduling cleanings and booking appointments right when the problem happens rather than waiting for months or years. I would really love to be preventative about my dental health and I’m doing a lot better now. I kind of feel like it’s too late for my poor teeth, but, well, a man does what he can. I’ve definitely had a cleaning in each of the last 2 years (I’m supposed to be on a 9 month schedule but I floss & I don’t have dental insurance so I feel like I’m doing my best)! Woo! Go me!

My new dentist is extremely good looking. Goodness. I put down on my info form that I have severe dental anxiety and he tries to be super nice and they tell you all their fees in advance and he’s still not as good as my last dentist who really did quite incredibly good work on my teeth and never once criticized me for doing things like letting my temporary root canal fillings go weeks or months without getting fixed permanently. Sigh.

In conclusion, I don’t regret having nothing but mean things to say about mean dentists, and while it’s true that I wouldn’t call a judgmental dentist a fucker to his face, I would absolutely tell him in no uncertain terms that his behaviour was unprofessional and he was losing me as a client as a result.

sudigsit (#5,900)

Are any of you who actually like your dentist in NYC? I haven’t been to the dentist in years due to anxiety about the whole process, not to mention fear of the expense, but this thread has reminded me that I really need to just do it already. If any of you have an NYC dentist recommendation, I would love to get it.

Local dentist charged me nearly $1300 for a crown…Had to get it because I was leaving for vacation in two days. Also said I had a cavity and it was deep and would most likely need a root canal. So, I go back for the next visit, and low and behold there’s no cavity anymore and now they want to pull off a crown, replace it and do a deep cleaning to the tune of nearly three grand. $1600 for deep cleaning. This is in a very small runny sink California town….NOT Beverly Hills. So, I laughed, then left. I called several other dentists who charge less than half of what this scam artist wanted. I even called two dentists in Beverly Hills…lol. Not $400 per area (quadrant) that’s for sure. Also noticed between the two times I went in, the office had brand new state of the art electronics. A touch screen sign-in for patients. I will NOT foot the bill for this crazy unethical doctor. All other dentists I called (6) except for one said their prices were “ridiculous” and insane. After I get my stats from them, I’m writing a full review of their dental practice online and contacting the BBB

@Judy Holland@facebook …..dang auto correct….SUPPOSED to say “rinky dink….not runny sink….too funny……AND after I get my xrays from them…not stats…lol. dumb kindle…

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