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Why You Should Think Twice Before Criticizing Fellow Dentists

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The majority of dentists are compassionate individuals who have chosen their profession with the genuine intention of aiding others. Nevertheless, perhaps due to our extensive educational backgrounds and inherent attention to detail, we may occasionally find ourselves excessively critical of our peers. Personally, I frequently engage on social media platforms and have often observed instances where dentists have hastily labeled alternative treatment plans as absurd or unlawful, often without a comprehensive grasp of the unique intricacies of a particular case or the context of the dental practice involved. A prevalent pattern appears to involve the tendency to criticize fellow dentists or practices that deviate from our own methodologies, often stemming from the misguided notion that any variance from the norm must inherently be unethical or against the law.

A frequently encountered situation that often gets “called out” and criticized revolves around patients presenting treatment plans from other dental offices. These plans may contain procedure codes or services that we, in our own practice, would neither bill for nor carry out. Instances of services such as Arestin® applications, gingival irrigation, laser treatments, cosmetic laboratory fees, or other supplementary charges.

It is certainly easy to criticize from afar. Social media has made this all too common, almost a sport, with the opportunity to “grade” literally everyone today with instant “likes and dislikes.” Reflect upon the feedback you receive from your patients. It's a common experience for all of us to encounter occasional unfavorable reviews where the remarks lack crucial context and pertinent details. 

As professionals, it's essential for us to exercise caution before criticizing the practices of another dental office or provider without a comprehensive understanding of all the relevant details. Doing so recognizes the significant likelihood that we might find ourselves mistaken or misinformed.

For instance, I encountered a surgeon years ago who displayed a notable level of ego. One of my initial recollections of him was when he shared that, as part of his improvement process, he had his assistants time him while performing treatments. He proudly mentioned that his record time for extracting four fully impacted teeth was just under a minute, collectively. Back then, I typically invested anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes for a single tooth extraction, leading me to initially dismiss the idea as unattainable. Thankfully, I didn’t.

After a decade of working with this surgeon, I have come to realize he was right, and I was not. My preconceived limitations were not reality, they were made up in my head. I have been able to learn some amazing techniques from him over the years. My average extraction time has dropped 90%, with better post op outcomes, and I was even able to remove my first fully impacted tooth this year! This progress would have been unattainable if I had simply dismissed the surgeon's initial statement due to its seemingly impossible or incorrect nature.

In recent years, I've had the privilege to collaborate with a diverse range of dental practices, each with its own distinct characteristics and dimensions. When it comes to fees, I've observed numerous offices operate in varied ways while achieving success. Factors such as varying service tiers, time investments, material usage, and levels of experience all play a significant role in the formulation of fee structures.

Which leads me to another common concern: “Is the fee too high?”

That is impossible to answer until you see the service and results. One office I have talked to charges a crown fee almost double mine, but their lab fee is 10x what mine is. Technically, my profit margin is higher than theirs, so how can I criticize their fee?

Another example involves charging for upgrades. Example: an in-network office charging for laser bacterial removal during a scaling and root planing procedure. Are they right? Are they overcharging? Is it fraud? 

Upgrade charges for better materials or procedures in dentistry are completely legal (if done correctly). If you read dental insurance contracts, they even state they are possible and provide the basics on how to manage the process. To date NO dental insurance contract disallows upgrade fees. Think about it, that would be removing the patient’s autonomy and choice. It would be like saying:

“No patient, we at the insurance company think you should not be allowed to choose to have a more expensive restoration for a better cosmetic outcome! You can only have basic care, because we at the insurance company know best, and that’s why we won’t pay for it or allow you to pay for it either!”

The challenge I tend to see with the topic of upgrades, and why the conceptual negativity involved often springs from two sources:

  1. Lack of knowledge on our part of what is possible.
  2. Incorrect use of the process, (which can become fraudulent if not careful) 

My goal is to challenge everyone to pause first before firing off a knee-jerk critique or accusation to a fellow doctor in public when we run across something new that is different than what we normally do. Who knows what new ideas one can learn when choosing to see differences as possible learning experiences instead of ways to criticize others? Growth of knowledge and skills often comes from challenging our own views, perceptions, and preconceived notions.  

Absolutely ask questions and seek more information but be careful when offering critiques without knowing all the details.

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” - Hamlet, Shakespeare.”

If you are interested in learning more about charging upgrade fees and other myths that often revolve around dental insurance, I invite you to watch this free, short video debunking many of the myths in the industry. Knowledge is power and the more we learn the better we become! 

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Understanding Dental Insurance: A Guide for Dentists and their Teams

by Dr. Travis Campbell

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Dental Insurance Myth-Busting

Dental insurance is complex and has generated multiple myths over the years. This course will uncover the truth behind these common myths so that you can better understand the dental insurance arena.

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Old habits die hard. If your current dental insurance claims process hasn’t been updated, it’s likely outdated.

Up-to-date, ongoing billing education isn’t just helpful, it’s essential for your practice to thrive.


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