One Bitten, Twice Shy: Tips For Protecting Yourself From Dental Scams

Despite the fact they sometimes literally pull your gold-plated teeth out, most dentists are trustworthy professionals who only want to do right by their patients. Unfortunately, like every barrel of apples has a few that are rotten to the core, the dental industry has its share of ne'er-do-wells who steadily look for ways to part you from your hard-earned money. Here are a few dental scams to watch for and tips on protecting yourself.

Insurance Fraud

According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, fraud siphons about $68 billion dollars from the healthcare industry every year. Many of the thieves think this type of fraud is a victimless crime. However, those losses are eventually rerouted to patients and taxpayers in the form of higher premiums and tax write offs. Additionally, fraudulent charges can make people hit their policy limits faster, causing them to pay out of pocket for services that would normally be covered.

Unethical dentists commit insurance fraud in a couple of ways. The first way is to charge for the more expensive version of the services they provide, also known as upcoding. For example, the dentist may bill for a deep cleaning when he or she only performed a routine cleaning. The second type of insurance fraud is to simply bill for services that weren't performed at all, e.g. charging for x-rays that weren't done.

The person is able to get away with this type of insurance fraud because most people don't take the time to read the bills they get from insurance companies listing the services that were paid for. To avoid being taken advantage of, it's important to note the procedures the dentist does in the office and then compare your notes and receipts to your statements. Notify the insurance company of any discrepancies right away.

Unnecessary Procedures

Another way many people are scammed is when the dentist recommends procedures that are not needed. This can be difficult to detect because—unless they are dental professionals themselves—people are not equipped to evaluate if the procedures the dentist tells them they need are really necessary or superfluous. Additionally, some dentists are trained to treat problems aggressively and may take a "better safe than sorry" approach when recommending treatments, so their advice may not have actually been made with malicious intent.

The best way to protect yourself and your oral health in this scenario is to make a habit of getting second and third opinions, especially when it comes to expensive treatments involving surgery or dental appliances (e.g. braces). If the second and third dentists recommend treatments that are drastically different from the first, you may want to avoid returning to that person.

Pawning Duties Off On Others

A particularly egregious act an unscrupulous dentist may engage in is to have untrained and unlicensed employees perform dental work only a licensed dentist should do. For example, the dentist may have a dental hygienist perform a tooth extraction. Not only is this unethical, it's dangerous. The work the untrained employee performs will typically be substandard and may cause other oral health problems that require even more treatment or may result in lost tooth, gum tissue, or bone.

One way to prevent this from happening to you is to research what different dental professionals are trained and licensed to do. You should also question the dentist's decision to hand your treatment over to someone else, especially if it appears the procedure would not be something the person would normally do. Don't be afraid to stop the treatment altogether and walk out. Your health is more important than someone's hurt feelings.

If you were the victim of any of these dental scams, it's a good idea to connect with a personal injury attorney who can help you hold the dental professional accountable for his or her fraudulent actions. Check out a law firm online at a site like to find a personal injury lawyer to represent your case.