I used to like going to the dentist. What’s not to like about getting your teeth pampered? Yes, sometimes there’s drilling, but it’s nice to walk away feeling confident about your smile. But then there’s the cost….
That’s why some years back I registered with an NHS dentist, where a checkup would cost no more than £20, and fillings would cost no more than £60.
Being able to access the NHS dental charges easily was a bonus, because private dentists can be somewhat mysterious in their pricing policies. And so, there I was, happy as Larry going for a checkup with my new NHS dentist.
Sitting back in the chair, mouth open, the dentist tapped on my teeth one by one, speaking a code to his assistant. Some of my pearly whites received a little more attention than others, resulting in lengthier exchanges of words between the two of them. Then following a quick X-ray, I was back in the chair, awaiting the verdict.
The NHS dentist’s verdict
Problem number 1: One of my back teeth wasn’t in the best of shape and needed a filling. No problem, I thought. ‘Metal or white filling?’ How nice to have the choice, I thought. The price for a white filling? £100. Not so nice.
I had thought fillings were including in the NHS pricing band 2, but sadly not for white ones. As the exchange between us continued, I began to understand that I was not just speaking to an NHS dentist – I was speaking to a private dentist with an NHS registration. And here I was being upsold private treatments and the cost that came with it.
Problem number 2: ‘You need a deep clean with the hygienist’. (My thoughts began to wander as to what a ‘deep clean’ actually meant and whether it was only intended for my teeth… I digress.)
The cost for this deep clean? £80. ‘Do I not get my teeth cleaned under the NHS?,’ I asked. ‘No, that’s just a scale and polish. If you want the full clean, you need the private hygienist,’ he replied. I reluctantly conceded.
My custom fit mouthguard
Problem number 3: Two of my bottom teeth had been worn down due to grinding my teeth. I couldn’t argue with that, as I could feel my teeth grinding as the conversation continued…
Apparently I was grinding my teeth during my sleep, and so the solution offered was to have a mouthguard moulded to the shape of my teeth for wearing night. Why not, I thought. My teeth had been feeling sensitive lately.
The cost for my custom fit mouthguard wasn’t offered up straight away. Instead, it appeared moments later on a printed out form. £250. Two hundred and fifty pounds.
When I asked the dentist to explain the cost, he said that under the NHS dental charges, anything outside of the usual treatment listed in Bands 1 and 2, is the Band 3 cost of £250.
He handed me a pen and asked me to sign. I refused and told him I wanted to think on it, and instead booked in a time for the hygienist and filling only.
Feeling ripped off by my dentist
As I walked home, I had the distinct feeling that I was being ripped off. I began to research the cost of custom fit mouthguards. Every private dentist I checked online had them at a cost of between £80-100. No more than that.
With this information in hand, I decided to do something a little cheeky. I decided to call my dentist as a new patient:
‘Hello, I wondered if you could help me. I would like to get a mouthguard fitted as I have a problem with grinding my teeth. Would you please be able to tell me how much that would cost me under your private charges?’
‘Yes of course, let me speak to the dentist’. Note that there is only one dentist at this clinic, the same dentist I had seen just minutes earlier.
‘Hello sir, the dentist has confirmed that the cost of a custom fit mouthguard will be £80.’
‘Thank you’. I hung up, grinding my teeth with anger.
My summary of the situation is that:
- I signed up to an NHS dentist to get a cheaper price for dental treatment.
- I was upsold a private white filling and a private hygienist appointment.
- I was sold a more expensive NHS treatment when the private treatment was cheaper!
This is profiteering at its most cynical, and that’s why I severed ties with my dentist, like a tooth from its root. I also refused to visit any other dentist for two years, my teeth be damned.
Have you been ripped-off by a dentist? What are your dentist horror stories?