Is My Affordable Dentist Ordering Unnecessary Procedures?

I don’t have dental insurance. Everything I do is out of pocket. Because of that I specifically looked for a dentist who advertised as an affordable dentist. I double checked and his prices were lower than those around him. So I felt pretty safe going. I did expect to need some work done because I haven’t been to the dentist in a while. But, this “affordable dentist” keeps seeming to find ways to cost me more money. Here are some examples:

1. Insisting on not one type of x-rays but two.
2. Telling me because of my gums I have to come in between appointments.
3. Telling me the first cleaning has to be a “deep” cleaning because of how long it’s been.
4. Five fillings and two crowns on teeth I don’t see cavities.

Is he gouging me?


Dear Lauren,

Dollar sign hatching out of an egg

I know dental care can be expensive. Affordable dentists are much more affordable when you go to the dentist regularly. I know you’re likely tired of hearing it but preventative care saves you a TON of money. It really does. Let’s go over some of these expenses and then we can discuss how to make this more affordable.

There are generally two types of x-rays done. Panoramic x-rays only have to be taken every few years, but they are necessary. They give the dentist a picture of your entire mouth and jaw. It can help reveal serious issues that need to be addressed the dentist wouldn’t be able to intervene early enough otherwise. The second set, bite-wings allow the dentist see between your teeth. They should be taken annually, unless you’re watching decay that’s already developed. Then you’ll need them twice a year.

Gum Disease

When he says you have an issue with your gums, he is referring to gum disease. If you don’t deal with it promptly, it can cost you your teeth. Then you will be spending a fortune, either on dentures or dental implants.

Deep Cleaning

This is probably to help get a good jump start in healing your gum disease. In the long run, that could save you several appointments so paying a little extra for that cleaning was the less expensive solution.

All of these are legitimate and typical for new patients with dental issues that need to be addressed.

Fillings and Crowns

Not all decay can be seen. The bite-wings help dentists to see between your teeth. It’s actually wonderful now that we have that technology. Before that, we had to wait until decay was visible or the pain alerted you to the decay. Catching these things early means less invasive (and less expensive) solutions. If you’re worried he’s not being honest and you don’t really need the treatment, there are dentists who give free second opinions.

Making Treatment Affordable When You Need a Lot

The good news is that things will get much more affordable once your oral health is back under control. However, that doesn’t help you afford the treatments you need now. Here are some things which should help:

  • Ask your dentist if he offers payment plans. If he doesn’t apply for Care Credit, a medical credit card with low and zero interest payment.
  • Have him list the treatments needed from most urgent to least. Do a little work at a time, while keeping up with cleanings (or things will get worse).
  • Ask about alternative treatments that could cost less.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Steven Collins.