The Walmart of Dentistry

I’m feeling pretty annoyed right now.  You see, just  about two months ago I spent a not unsubstantial amount of money to have a crown replaced.  My tooth wasn’t hurting.  It just had an “odd feeling” around it.  When I’d go for a run and my feet would strike the ground, I could feel it in my tooth.  Since this wasn’t normal and I’m a bit of a stickler for oral health (never miss my 6 month check-up, floss, etc.), I visited the dentist to have it checked out.  Of course the crown needed to be replaced.  I was told the margins weren’t looking great and that was possibly what was causing the issue.  The gums by the problem margin were irritated.  And so I had them replace the crown.  I’ve now had my permanent crown on for about two weeks, and walla, tooth pain.  What was just an “odd feeling” is now pain.

But this post isn’t about the new problem in my tooth.  And it’s not about getting some feedback online from a dental expert.  Although any guidance would be swell and actually I think swelling of surrounding gum tissue is likely the issue as I suspect this new crown was shoddily fitted. It’s about how shitty my now ex-dental office has become.  And sadly, I don’t think it’s one isolated chain practice problem.  I think this is were health care is headed (if it’s not already mostly there).

The problem started when my previous dentist sold his practice and went into early retirement.  Great for him.  Not so awesome for me.  You see, the practice was bought out by Great Expressions .  These guys are a chain operation.  From their site:

For more than 35 years, Great Expressions Dental Centers (GEDC) has been exceeding patients’ expectations with more than 200 dental centers in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Virginia. GEDC is one of the largest privately owned dental service organizations in the United States, but don’t let our size mislead you. GEDC and its employees continue to maintain the dedication and core values found in small, hometown dental practices, but with the stability and convenience of an established national organization. GEDC’s mission is to provide affordable dental care without sacrificing quality and convenience. GEDC accepts most major insurances and is focused on partnering with insurers to increase access for patients.

Compassionate and Trusted Dental Care

We won’t judge or scare you. We are here to make your experience with us as comfortable as possible. Our respectful professionals promise to give you the highest standard of care in a welcoming and friendly environment. We provide a full range of dental services including general and preventative care, cosmetic, endodontic, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, pedodontics and periodontics.

Our Mission

The mission of Great Expressions Dental Centers is to provide affordable dental care, without sacrificing quality or convenience. This mission is both reinforced by our talented group of dental professionals and supported by our patients who recognize the quality of care they receive. Our patients rely on us to provide quality, professional dental care, and we deliver that — one smile at a time.

Look for the Smile Above Our Name!

Sounds nice in theory.  But here’s the issue, that’s not the experience they are delivering.  Here’s how it plays out:

You sit in a huge waiting room that is devoid of anything remotely comfortable.

Despite what their site says, their pricing is no different than any other dental practice.  I wasn’t looking for a bargain and they aren’t giving one.  I want good service; service for which I’m happy to pay.

The chances of having you back in the dental chair anywhere near the time you’re booked is slim to none.  They are notorious for overbooking.  If you’re thinking, “don’t all medical professionals do this now?”, to some degree yes.  But I’ve never experienced it on every single visit.  And each time I’m there at least two people show up claiming to have an appointment set and they have no record of it.  Sure, some people lie.  But is it this widespread?

Something would always happen on their end the day before my appointment (and once the morning of) and they’d try to reschedule me.  Not once.  Not twice.  This happened every time I booked an appointment but once.  I’d pitch a fit and they’d move someone’s appointment around to accommodate me.

Now, all of the things above are really annoyances (before I get blasted for bitching).  And if the issues below weren’t, well, issues, then I wouldn’t have felt compelled to write this post…..or leave their practice.

I never saw the same doctor twice. I don’t know if this is because they have so many or they have a high staff turn-over rate.

The dentists never spent anytime at all with me.  I felt like I was in an auto shop for a tune-up.  They came in, checked under the hood, poked around a bit, and moved on.  No “hi, how are you doing?” or even a “what brings you in today”.  Check the chart.  Do work.  On to the next $.

Before any procedure you’re taken in to a “treatment coordinator”.  You know what this person coordinates?  Your payment.  Will that be credit card?  It feels like the finance office of a car dealership.  I get that a lot of people don’t pay, but there has to be a better way to do this.  It feels so cheap and unprofessional.  When I went in for my crown they had someone just come in to the room and take my payment while I was there in the chair!

The dental assistants don’t seem very well trained or competent.  I think this may be from where my new crown problem  is stemming.  She struggled to get it fitted correctly.  And the dentist looked in my mouth and walked out.  After much shoving and filing, it seemed to feel okay that day.  But something isn’t right now.

So by this point, you’re wondering why did I stay if things have been so bad since my old dentist sold?  My hygienist.  She’s a gem.  And I hate to stop seeing her.  But one outstanding hygienist does not a dental practice make.

I’m moving on in search of a small, family dentist.  I need to find a place where I feel comfortable, secure, and well cared for.  I need a place I can take my kids (when I have some).  I need a place where I feel good shelling over the bucks because the service and people are worth it!

walmart

Stay positive & love your life!

-Melissa

Today:

Listening to:  New Order – Elegia

Eating:  Leftover gnocchi and arugula salad

Drinking:  H2O

Random fact:  Even with the solid dental habits instilled in me by my Mom, I would still have a cavity almost every visit as a child.  Teeth are so not fair.

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14 thoughts on “The Walmart of Dentistry

  1. I definitely feel for you. I used to have this pain that I kept telling my old dentist about and he’d always say “Oh it’s nothing.” It wasn’t until I switched that I found out that I needed a root canal and it was a pretty BIG problem.

    I always say it’s like finding a good mechanic for your car. Very hard but when you do you definitely appreciated it.

    I really despise all the “businesses” taking over the small dental practices. It seems the small ones with the one-to-one relationship where you actually see the dentist are where you get a dentist that genuinely cares and knows what s/he is doing.

    • I’ve been very lucky through the years with the dentists I’ve had….until now. It made me think maybe I’ve been a bit spoiled. But I don’t think that’s the case. It’s a profession that’s about service. Without the personal touch, service suffers.

      Luckily a local friend already read the post and sent me a referral! He’s a small practice and even the family dog comes in to the office to hang. Sounds promising!

      Thanks for reading! Come back to visit. 🙂

  2. OMG, the family dental practices are definitely the best!

    The one i’m going to right is also run by the dentist and her family!

    Congrats btw!!!

  3. Reblogged this on I Heart Teeth and commented:
    Appreciating the little guys in dentistry that provide big care. Thank you to all the family dentists that are practicing to help and not to pad their profit line.

  4. I’m a dentist so I love this view of dental practice through the consumer’s eyes. Your observations are very true. For a practice to run well there must be someone in the office who “gives a s%#t”. That is what some corporate dental practices lack.

    • So true! Most people hate/are scared of dental visits. A cold $ driven practice makes the entire experience dreadful. Excited to find a home at a small, local family practice.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Reblogged this on The Relaxed Dentist and commented:
    It’s very nice to read the views of a patient about dental care they’ve received. There are a whole lot of lessons about custoemr service that dentists can learn from this.

  6. Sadly, this *IS* where the future of dentistry is heading…it is probably because dental undergraduates are looking at dentistry as part time employment rather than a life time business…thank you for reflecting on your dental experiences…I am a dentist too

    • Thanks for reading. Why do you think those coming out of school view it that way? It seems like a lot of effort to commit to an education to go that route. Not to mention I would think that this career would often be a calling; something about which a practitioner would be passionate.

      • A huge reason that most graduates look to the all mighty dollar is because of the high amount of student loan debt. From my experience, most graduates do not want to work for “cooperate” dental practices; however, they pay very well and the young graduate doesn’t have to take on any additional loans to start up his/her own practice. Just to give everyone an idea of the amount of money it takes to become a dentist, I am currently at a dental school that has lower than average tuition and fees for the country and the living expense is very reasonable comparatively to other cities. My student loans coming out of school in less than a year will be $285,000, this includes interest that has accumulated at a 6.9% interest rate over the past 4 years. This also does not include any of my student loans from undergrad.

        I am by no way saying that patients should suffer because of this. I completely believe that patient care is always the #1 priority. However cooperate dental office owners know that recent dental graduates are in need of income and they can push over booked schedules that strives for quantity over quality and the new dentist has no say so in the matter. If the new dentist does speak out about having to put out under quality dentistry to keep up than he can easily be replaced by another dentist. I have seen it happen to friends. Luckily I have something in the works so that I won’t ever have to practice in one of those places. My advice to anyone is to shop around and find a dentist that privately owns his practice and is passionate about dentistry.

  7. Reblogueó esto en dentonomyy comentado:
    para aquellos que queráis saber cómo NO tratar a los pacientes……..os lo recomendamos, la AUTOCRíTICA es buena y necesaria, SIEMPRE!!!!

  8. Pingback: Nuestros pacientes también son personas…. | dentonomy

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