12 Warning Signs of a Bad Dentist & How to Prevent Scams (2023)

Is Your Dentist Scamming You?

While most dentists are considered ethical and professional, some are dishonest. Unfortunately, some dentists abuse their positions of authority to scam patients and insurance companies for money.

It is essential to know what to look for at the dentist in order to protect your oral health and bank account from common dental scams.

How Common are Dentistry Scams?

Like any industry, there is always a potential for dishonesty in order to reap financial gain.

The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimated that 3% of the total spending on health care in the United States is lost to fraud.

Although that may sound like a small percentage, consider that dental spending is projected to reach $203 billion by 2027.7 These number would put the monetary loss to scams and frauds in the billions.

Why is Dentistry Vulnerable to Fraud?

There are certain factors of dentistry that leave the profession particularly vulnerable to fraud.

The decision as to whether you require dental treatment is typically in a gray area. One dentist may give specific advice, while the other may give different recommendations. This is normal and should be expected.

However, the subject nature of a dental diagnosis means that the typical signs of insurance fraud are more challenging to detect. It is more difficult to understand whether a procedure is necessary or not.

Do Dentists Lie About Cavities? What About Unnecessary Crowns?

Research suggests that, in many cases, there is no need for the traditional ‘fill and drill’ technique to fix cavities, which has defined dentistry for decades.1 In many circumstances, patients do not actually need fillings.

Following a set of protocols called the Caries Management System (CMS), researchers say tooth decay can be stopped, reversed, and prevented long before a cavity is necessary.

(Video) 5 Signs the Dentist is Scamming You

This research signals the need for a significant change in the way tooth decay is managed by dentists. It also suggests that many dentists may request unnecessary procedures to make more money.

When it comes to crowning teeth, many dentists are also very eager to perform the procedure because it pays well, even when unnecessary.

If you are considering a crown, do not agree to the treatment without good reason. Also, consider seeking a second opinion. A crown on a healthy tooth is not good as it puts the nerve inside under a lot of stress.

12 Warning Signs of a Bad or Fraudulent Dentist

There are various warning signs of a dishonest or bad dentist. These include:

1. They Charge You for “Phantom Treatments”

Always carefully check your bills and explanation of benefits. Beware of phantom treatments you never received or suspiciously inflated bills.

2. They Perform a Non-Comprehensive Dental Exam

A comprehensive dental exam means ‘including everything as necessary.’

Your oral health is linked to your overall health. A good dentist will take a holistic approach to understand all the factors occurring in your body.

A comprehensive dental exam is critical for good dental care and an accurate diagnosis. It can lead to the prevention and early detection of oral and general health conditions.

When you visit the dentist’s office, make sure you receive a comprehensive dental exam or consider looking for a new dentist.

3. They Don’t Gather Your Dental History/Records

The first and most important step when you visit a dentist is to ask for old dental records from your previous clinic.

(Video) Is your dentist ripping you off? Hidden camera investigation (CBC Marketplace)

If they do not mention it, it is a warning sign they are not taking your dental health seriously.

4. They Recommend a Cone-Beam X-Ray Instead of a Digital X-Ray

Cone-beam X-rays and digital dental X-rays perform very similar functions. Both X-rays expose the inner areas of the tooth and the tooth roots.

However, 3D cone beam scans provide dentists with a more complex look at your smile. This includes the teeth, jawbone, and other oral and facial structures.

A cone-beam x-ray is also more expensive than a digital x-ray. If your dentist insists that you require a cone-beam x-ray instead of a digital x-ray, there is a chance they may be trying to make you pay more.

5. They Give You a “Creative Diagnosis”

Diagnosing a condition without proof of dental x-rays or a mirror is very common with cavity scams.

If your dentist gives you a creative diagnosis and recommends costly procedures without evidence of why you need them, consider seeking a second opinion.

6. They Try to Upsell Products

If a dentist tries to upsell products, this may indicate that they care more about making sales than patient care.

7. They Charge You for Extra X-Rays

Full sets of x-rays are only required every one to two years.

If your dentist tries to charge you for more, this is a sign of a scam. If you have good oral hygiene and a low risk for cavities, you do not need x-rays at each dental visit.

8. They Rush to Treat “Microcavities”

Microcavities or surface cavities are the earliest signs that a tooth is becoming decayed. However, not all cavities will progress and need a pricey ‘fill and drill’ treatment.

(Video) 6 signs your dentist might be ripping you off

Beware of a dentist who rushes to treat microcavities as a filling may not be necessary.

9. They Use Outdated/Old-Fashioned Tactics

If a dentist uses outdated treatment methods or old technology, this is a red flag.

Many newer dentistry methods provide more affordable services for customers. A dentist who uses old technology or treatments may be looking to charge more money or provide a lower quality service.

10. They Recommend Unnecessary Procedures

If a dentist suggests various expensive treatments, there is a chance some, or even all, may be unnecessary.

Your dentist may be trying to charge you more money to undergo procedures. If you are being recommended to get dental treatment each time you visit the dentist, consider getting a second opinion.

11. They Have Poor Hygiene

Everything in a dental office must be clean and sanitized.

This includes the reception, receiving area, and the inner clinic. If the dentist’s office is not clean, this could suggest that the staff are not following certain protocols and standards.

The most important responsibility of healthcare workers is ensuring the tools they use are clean and sterilized. If not, unclean tools could put the patient at risk of infection.

12. They Have a Bad Online Reputation

If a dentist has a bad reputation, this is a major red flag.

If they are not suggested by the people you know and have negative feedback online and on social media, it is essential to find a new dentist.

(Video) Dentist Explains How to Avoid Bad Breath, Tongue Scraping, and More | Ask an Expert | Health

4 Tips for Preventing Dental Scams

Here are some ways to prevent dental scams and to find a good dentist:

1. Get a Second Opinion

Dentists should never sway you from getting a second opinion. If they have nothing to hide, they will not discourage you.

Visit another dentist for a second opinion if you are unsure about a diagnosis. Or, you can set up a teledentistry appointment for a second opinion.

Visiting Denteractive is an excellent option for a second opinion, providing easy access to professional board-certified dentists in your area.

2. Talk to an Online Dentist Beforehand

If you have a minor toothache or another dental problem, it might be best to check with an online dentist before visiting a dentist’s office. Getting an online opinion can help prevent unnecessary treatment.

There are plenty of teledentistry services that provide access to high-quality board-certified dentists in your area, including:

3. Only Pay for the Treatments You Need

Sometimes, dentists recommend several treatments at once when not all are necessary. Only pay for the dental procedures that are urgent or cannot be put off.

4. Check Reviews/Do Your Research Before Choosing a Dentist

Ask for recommendations before arranging a dental visit. You can ask your friends and family for suggestions to see if they have a professional dentist you can trust.

In this article

(Video) Dental X-rays: Don't Get Scammed


How do you know you have a bad dentist? ›

They do not look hygienic.

This is one of the biggest warning signs of a bad dentist. But if the dentist does not have a spotlessly clean practice, clean scrubs, change gloves and mask between patients then you need to get your feet out the door.

What dentists don t want you to know? ›

One of the most important topics in “what dentists don't want you to know” is about Mercury. Some dentists still use mercury in their fillings, but composite filling is by far superior. Some countries have gone so far as to ban mercury fillings over safety concerns.

What should you not say to a dentist? ›

Dear Patient: 9 things we wish you wouldn't do at the dentist
  • Saying “I hate the dentist” ...
  • Not disclosing your medical history. ...
  • Lying. ...
  • Not lying back, opening your mouth wide, or turning your head. ...
  • Refusing to swallow your own saliva. ...
  • Waiting to go to the bathroom until we call you back.
Jun 3, 2022

What do you do when dentist says warning in tooth? ›

It is important to visit the dentist as soon as the patient notices one or more warning signs. Patients can often get same-day appointments for this type of condition.

How do I know my dentist is not ripping me off? ›

Spot These Warning Signs of a Bad Dentist [Don't Get Ripped Off]
  1. Urgency Without Details.
  2. Heavy Work That Comes Out of the Blue.
  3. Deals That Are Too Good to Be True.
  4. Diagnosing a Lot of Procedures Not Covered By Insurance.
  5. Not Showing You X-Rays.
Jul 2, 2021

What is the difference between a good dentist and a bad dentist? ›

A mark of a good dentist is being able to give treatment in a way that minimizes a patient's pain. Poor dentists will not worry about minimizing a patient's pain and will be much rougher in administering routine care like cleanings or giving shots.

Can dentists tell if you don't brush? ›

Similarly to flossing, your dental team will also be able to tell if you don't brush your teeth often enough or even if you brush too hard. Those who don't brush the recommended two times a day will often have larger areas of tartar buildup and puffy, red gums.

Can a dentist tell if you're sick? ›

Aside from pointing out the evident cavity or stained teeth, dentists can tell if you are sick, highly stressed, and even pregnant! The list is extensive because “good dental health is a reflection of good health overall.” Here are a handful of things that can be discovered or learned from your visits to the dentist.

Is my dentist going to judge me? ›

It's important to remember that dentists don't go into their profession to judge people; they go into it to help them. No matter what your oral health condition is, a good dentist will not make you feel bad about it.

What is considered unethical in dentistry? ›

Unnecessary Services. A dentist who recommends or performs unnecessary dental services or procedures is engaged in unethical conduct. The dentist's ethical obligation in this matter applies regardless of the type of practice arrangement or contractual obligations in which he or she provides patient care.

Should you be honest with your dentist? ›

Telling the Truth Provides Your Dentist With Important Information. The most important reason to tell your dentist the truth is that it will help them make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. It lets your dentist know your starting point so they can adjust their suggestions.

Why are dentists pushing deep cleaning? ›

If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, and suffer from bone loss, inflammation, and/or tartar has accumulated beneath the gumline, then the hygienist will need to clean 'deeper' below the gumline, and this is often known as a dental deep cleaning.

What does an unhealthy mouth look like? ›

If you have healthy gums, they will look firm and pink. Some signs of unhealthy gums include redness and swelling, gums that bleed when you brush or floss your teeth, and gums that appear to be pulling away from the teeth.

How can you tell if you have an infection in your mouth? ›

Bleeding or sore gums. Tooth, gum, or jaw pain. Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods. Swelling of the gums, jaw, or lymph nodes.

How do you know if you have a good dentist? ›

How to find a Good Dentist
  • 8 Sure-Fire Signs You're Dealing With a Good Dentist. ...
  • They Come Highly Recommended by Friends & Family. ...
  • They Provide An Amazing Patient Experience. ...
  • They're Clean. ...
  • They Display Their Work. ...
  • They Explain Things Clearly. ...
  • They Have Updated Technology. ...
  • They Educate You.

Why don t dentists let you keep your pulled teeth? ›

OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogen Standard names extracted teeth as a potentially infectious material, which should be handled accordingly (i.e. disposed of in approved medical waste containers).

Can a dentist pull all your teeth at once? ›

There is no limit to the number of teeth you can have extracted at once. While having multiple teeth extracted during the same procedure is rare, it is sometimes the only option for patients with severe tooth decay.

What are 3 important qualities of a dentist? ›

Common personality traits
  • Comfortable with close personal interaction. ...
  • Easy to talk to. ...
  • Trustworthy. ...
  • A detail-oriented person. ...
  • Artistic. ...
  • A leader. ...
  • Excited about the profession of dentistry. ...
  • Passionate about providing care to those in need.

What is the most important quality of a dentist? ›

The most important qualities a good family dentist should have are being knowledgeable, being an expert in their field, and being trustworthy. A dentist should have excellent communication skills and be compassionate. Your family dentist should be local and operate convenient office hours.

Do dentists overtreat? ›

Absolutely! Dentists are highly dependent on public trust, and cases of proved or suspected overtreatment tarnish the whole profession. We should engage in sincere and mature conversations about how we might protect the public from overtreatment occurring in dentistry.

What should you not do before a dentist appointment? ›

It is best to avoid doing the following before your dental appointment:
  • DO NOT brush or floss excessively.
  • DO NOT forget to check if your medical insurance covers the visit.
  • DO NOT put on too much makeup.
  • DO NOT keep any medical history from your dentist.
  • DO NOT drink alcohol beforehand.
  • DO NOT take painkillers.

How long can you go without brushing your teeth before you get a cavity? ›

One week without brushing:

You will have a greater chance of getting cavities if you don't brush your teeth for a week. There is also a good chance that the plaque will start to hurt your gums, which will make them hurt and hurt.

How can I make my teeth look good before the dentist? ›

Brush and floss before your visit. There is no secret formula or best way to clean your teeth before the dentist. Your dentist will be able to identify any clear or underlying problems during your checkup. If you plan on eating a meal before you go for your checkup, be sure to brush and floss afterwards.

What cancers can dentists detect? ›

Many dentists routinely check for mouth and oropharyngeal cancer. So they are often the first people to spot the early signs of cancer. If the dentist suspects cancer they can refer you to a specialist. Report any changes to your GP or dentist, especially if you smoke and drink a lot of alcohol.

Why does the dentist ask you to move your tongue? ›

Preventative dentistry is a practice designed to help all patients maintain optimal oral health, and a tongue exam aims to identify any issues such as infections, nutritional deficiencies and abnormal growths which may be present.

Can a dentist see infection? ›

An X-ray of the aching tooth can help identify an abscess. Your dentist may also use X-rays to determine whether the infection has spread, causing abscesses in other areas. Recommend a CT scan. If the infection has spread to other areas within your neck, a CT scan may be used to see how severe the infection is.

What is the biggest issue in dentistry? ›

Finding quality staff is one of the biggest challenges of running a dental practice. It's only compounded by the major risk of not being able to pay them in the long term if patient billings and collections are insufficient to support their wages.

What is the hardest thing in dentistry? ›

Tooth enamel is the hardest part of the body.

How do dentists deal with failure? ›

Self-care is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself, both as a person and as a successful dentist. Treat your days off like days off. Pursue your hobbies and personal interests. Make time to play with your kids or go out with friends and family.

What can dentists notice? ›

6 Medical Conditions Your Dentist Can Detect First
  • Diabetes. Many patients go to the dentist due to their persistent bad breath. ...
  • Cancer. During routine oral exams, dentists can also detect any lumps or sores in your gums, tongue, cheeks, and even on your neck. ...
  • Osteoporosis. ...
  • Anemia. ...
  • GERD or Acid Reflux. ...
  • HIV.

What to do when all your teeth are bad? ›

10 Options for Restoring Bad Teeth (Failing, Missing, Rotting)
  1. 1) Fillings. ...
  2. There are several materials used for fillings: ...
  3. 2) Bonding. ...
  4. 3) Restoring a Tooth with a Crown. ...
  5. 4) Dental Bridges. ...
  6. 5) Traditional Dentures & Conventional Dentures. ...
  7. 6) Removable Partials/Flippers. ...
  8. 7) Dental Implants.

Why does my dentist want to see me every 3 months? ›

Reduce the Risk of Tooth Decay

The bacteria start to eat away at the tooth enamel, forming a hole. This hole/cavity will only get deeper the longer it goes without treatment. By going to the dentist every 3 months instead of the typical 6 month schedule, more plaque is removed from your teeth to prevent cavities.

What is overbilling in dentistry? ›

The misrepresentation of a fee as higher than actual charges; for example, when a patient is charged one fee and an insurance company is billed a higher fee to benefit the patient's co-payment, or to increase a fee to a patient solely because the patient is covered under a dental benefits plan.

What are the two types of malpractice in dentistry? ›

Some include: Negligently performing dental work. Failure to diagnose or treat a dental condition.

What are three examples of unethical? ›

Asking for recognition for someone else's job, calling in sick to go to the hill station, sabotaging someone else's work, and, in sales, falsifying the product or service to fulfill the target are all examples of unethical behavior in the workplace.

Why you should trust your dentist? ›

Patients receive unique benefits when they trust their dental professional. For one, a foundation of trust can reduce anxiety about visiting the dentist. Open communication allows your dental care to be tailored to your unique concerns and needs.

Should you thank your dentist? ›

If you have a dentist that takes the time to get to know you and provide you with quality dental care, take the opportunity to thank them for their kindness. Here are some ideas of what you might include in a thank-you note to a dentist.

Can dentists tell if you drink alcohol the night before? ›

If you drink alcohol often, it can linger on your breath, and the smell can escape through the pores of your skin. So if there are no visible signs yet, a dentist may be able to smell the alcohol on your breath or in your skin.

Do dentists try to upsell? ›

Upselling is a great strategy for boosting your bottom line, but it is one that most dentists probably avoid. After all, dentistry is a medical field. Selling patients treatments that they do not need may seem unethical, but there are exceptions.

Are deep cleanings worth it? ›

More and more research has shown a direct link between the progression of gum disease and the development of more serious illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, dementia and more. So if your dentist or hygienist says you need a deep teeth cleaning, you owe it to your overall health to take care of it.

Can you decline a deep cleaning at dentist? ›

A patient has a legal right to refuse proposed medical or dental care. Informed consent may be either verbal or written.

What are the early signs of rotting teeth? ›

Symptoms of tooth decay

tooth sensitivity – you may feel tenderness or pain when eating or drinking something hot, cold or sweet. grey, brown or black spots appearing on your teeth. bad breath. an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

What color is an unhealthy healthy tongue? ›

An unhealthy tongue. If your tongue is a different colour than pink, or has large patches of white, brown, black, or another colour, this might indicate a specific health issue. Similarly, if you have large bumps or no bumps at all, you may also want to speak to a doctor.

What color are unhealthy gums? ›

Red Gums: Red gums, or gums that are deeply pink, often indicate an infection. Bright red gums may be highly sensitive, and they may bleed when you brush and floss. Yellow Gums: A slight yellow tint or film on your gums indicates gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease.

What is a natural antibiotic for tooth infection? ›

Garlic is widely used for infections due to its germ-fighting properties. They are considered natural antibiotics. This common cooking ingredient contains a component called allicin, which has been shown in scientific research to kill bacteria. Fresh garlic may also soothe pain from a tooth infection.

Does Listerine help with tooth infection? ›

Yes, applying a cotton ball soaked in regular Listerine on an infected tooth will relieve tooth pain. Listerine is about 27% alcohol, and alcohol numbs nerve endings.

Can salt water rinse heal gum infection? ›

Reduces Inflammation – The warm salt water rinse is an effective way to reduce the inflammation and swelling associated with gum disease. Saltwater rinses can help with the treatment for gum disease, but it cannot fix the problems on its own.

How do I know if I have the right dentist? ›

Ask for dentist recommendations

Ask your friends, family or coworkers. Chances are one of them has a great dentist they can recommend. You could also ask your healthcare provider or a pharmacist. Members of the medical community often know one another.

What are the three major dental problems? ›

Gum disease. Root infection. A cracked or broken tooth.

Should I get a second opinion on dental work? ›

Getting a second opinion from a dentist is generally a good idea if: you are concerned that the proposed dental work is too invasive. your current dentist is not willing to clearly communicate your treatment options. you feel your current dentist is being too forceful or aggressive when making their recommendations.

Can a dentist pull a tooth wrong? ›

The prevalence of wrong tooth extraction was 21.1%. The three most common reasons for extracting a wrong tooth were miscommunication (31.6%), inadequate referral (28.9%), and exhaustion of an overworked dentist (28.9%). Surprisingly, only 50% informed the patient and documented the incident in the patient's chart.

What do you look for in a good dentist? ›

Common personality traits
  • Comfortable with close personal interaction. ...
  • Easy to talk to. ...
  • Trustworthy. ...
  • A detail-oriented person. ...
  • Artistic. ...
  • A leader. ...
  • Excited about the profession of dentistry. ...
  • Passionate about providing care to those in need.

What questions should you ask a new dentist? ›

8 Important Questions To Ask Your Dentist At Your Next Appointment
  • How is My Overall Dental Health? ...
  • How Can I Prevent Gum Disease? ...
  • What Does This Pain, Sensation, or Discoloration Mean? ...
  • What Type of Toothbrush and Toothpaste Should I Be Using? ...
  • What Foods Are Bad for My Teeth? ...
  • Should I Use a Mouthwash?

How do you evaluate a dentist? ›

8 Tips for Choosing a Dentist
  1. A Personal Decision. If the thought of going to the dentist makes you anxious, you are in good company. ...
  2. Get Referrals. ...
  3. Research the Dentist's Credentials. ...
  4. Consider the Dentist's Experience. ...
  5. Consider Gender. ...
  6. Ask About Telehealth Capabilities. ...
  7. Evaluate Communication Style. ...
  8. Read Patient Reviews.

What is the most painful dental condition? ›

#1 Abscess Tooth:

Every tooth has a root protected by soft-tissue and that tissue can get an infection. For most people and abscess tooth comes with a considerable amount of pain.

What is the most pressing issue in dentistry? ›

Finding quality staff is one of the biggest challenges of running a dental practice. It's only compounded by the major risk of not being able to pay them in the long term if patient billings and collections are insufficient to support their wages.

What are the 5 most common dental problems? ›

5 Common Dental Problems and Treatment
  1. Gum Disease. Gum disease, also referred to as gingivitis or periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection caused by the accumulation of plaque in your mouth. ...
  2. Tooth Sensitivity. ...
  3. Tooth Decay. ...
  4. Oral Cancer. ...
  5. Dry Mouth.
Jul 21, 2020

Do most dentists guarantee their work? ›

Most dental practices stand behind their work and repair or replace work if it fails in the short term. When a patient came into our office with a broken crown that had been recently made, we remade the crown at no charge.

Are dentists judgmental? ›

Oral health professionals and hygienists don't judge because they're happy that you're seeking treatment to improve your oral health. There are many reasons people have the oral health that they have; be it lack of information, no check-ups as a child, socio-economic reasons or extreme anxiety and shame.

Why does my tooth hurt but dentist says nothing wrong? ›

If your dentist checks out your oral health and doesn't find anything, there could be a variety of possibilities to the true source of pain. This type of pain is known as referred pain. The types of referred pain patients can experience are related, but not limited, to: Congested or Infected Sinuses.

How often does a dentist pull the wrong tooth? ›

Averaged out, that's about four and a half cases per year. Even when you round this annual average down to four, that still means a dental practitioner pulls the wrong tooth about once every three months.

Can a dentist break your jaw while pulling a tooth? ›

The most common way that dental negligence jaw fractures happen is during a tooth extraction, when so much force is exerted to remove the tooth that your jaw is fractured as a result. Mistakes that happen during dental implants procedures can also cause fractured jaws, as well as nerve damage.


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