Dental 'Deep Cleanings' a quasi-scam?

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but my wife and I have been going to a very large dental practice for the last 10 years and have been noticing a huge effort to push the so called ‘deep cleaning’. Basically, it’s an additional teeth cleaning, except they do a little more work on the area below the gumline.

I am especially religious about going for the six month cleanings, brush twice a day, floss reasonably often, and yet every two years, they seem to want to do the deep cleaning. The previous 20 years of my life when I took far less good care of my teeth, no such service was ever requested or even offered. Naturally, this ‘extra’ is not completely covered by the insurance and seems to make them additional money since they are hitting you up three times a year instead of two. I have consistently gone in to get it when they ask to do it, but today both my wife and I were hit up for it, and they asked us “when was the last time you had a deep cleaning?”. This struck me as strange because that shouldn’t matter, should it? All that should matter is whether I need it. It felt like they were really asking “when was the last time you had it because the insurance carrier only allows us to hit them up every so often and we want to know if enough time has passed for us to hit the cash register again…”

Maybe I’m just paranoid, and when it comes to my health, I’m obviously going to do what I can to stay as healthy as possible, but something about this procedure struck me as somewhat “made up”. What say you on this? I’d particularly like to hear from anyone in the dental field, particularly any former hygenists who might fess up as to whether they have been asked to upsell this…

Along these same lines, is the so called ‘teeth cleaning’ offered by the vet for your dog or cat a quasi-scam as well? Growing up, no vet I ever took our family pet to ever offered this service, but now they all push it. Apparently it involves giving the animal anesthetic and treating it like a surgery, which strikes me as horribly cruel to perform unless the animal is undergoing surgery for something else already. I say ‘Quasi-scam’ because I certainly don’t think either of these things is going to hurt the animal (or person), but is it a complete waste of money relative to the amount of good it will do for the person/animal?

IANA Dentist, but I work in a dental office. “Deep cleaning” is the patient-friendly term we use for a scaling and root planing. An SCRP is a thorough cleaning of the gums, and is necessary for patients with gum disease/ gingivitis. Once you’ve got gum disease, you’ve got it for life, although if you take good care of your teeth and gums, you may not need another SCRP after the initial 4 (one per quadrant).

I don’t know if you have gum disease, but you should definitely ask your dentist for more (and hopefully, more accurate) info.


Also, just because your insurance carrier doesn’t allow it doesn’t mean it’s not necessary. I handle insurance for our office, and I can tell you, coverage is all over the damn place. What gets covered depends on your carrier, as well as on your particular plan within the carrier. Perio stuff is sometimes covered under “preventive”, and sometimes, basic, and I think I saw one plan that had it under major. Most plans will only cover two cleanings per year, but the thing with gum disease is that after your cleaning, the bacteria in your gums will have regenerated after 3 months (hence the checkups every 3-4 months instead of 6).

Really, your hygienist (dentist? who does your cleanings?) should have explained this. But, yeah, if you’ve got perio disease, it’s not a scam.

If you have doubts go to another dentist for a 2nd opinion.

We rescued our bullboxer from the side of the road; his previous owner dumped him on side of the road because she was up to her ears in debt and had her home foreclosed on (roughly two years ago). He’s my family’s first pet, so we went to the most expensive/widely advertised vet in town. He recommended putting the dog to sleep while he cleaned his teeth; my mom politely declined. Then, as time went on, we found a more reasonable vet (that also caters to big dogs and bully breeds) who also recommended the cleaning; he’ll be getting it this summer sometime. So it’s not a scam; keep in mind however that our dog had pretty much no vet care for years before we got him and some broken teeth to boot, so if your pets have always been yours, it may not be as necessary.

I went to a dentist and he said I needed to spend a bunch of money on this. I put it off, and meticulously brushed and flossed in the meantime. My next checkup was at a different dentist, who said I was fine. I wonder which one is right. Am I supposed to do 2 out of 3 opinions? 3 out of 5?

The first one also asked me if I wanted braces, which pissed me off because I already HAD braces as a teenager. There is a bit of space that opened up between my front teeth since then, but it’s symmetrical and I’d never thought anything of it.

Thank you for the opinions on both the people and the animals.

Ichini Sanshigo - so, have you ever been asked to upsell this service? Or is it common in the dental field? I ask because I once heard (from a highly biased friend, obviously) that one of the purposes of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was to “stop all the crooked dentists and chiropractors from overbilling”.

With all the talk of healthcare costs spiraling out of control recently, I wonder if part of the problem is unnecessary procedures being done in the name of “health maintenance” that may be of dubious value beyond the regular cleaning. I really don’t want to turn this into a Great Debate, but I have never been told I have gum disease, and am otherwise happy with the dentist, other than this one thing. I suppose I should have asked about it, but didn’t think to at the time…

My previous dentist was a specialist in wallet extraction. He always had some new scam he was pushing. Deep cleanings, braces, cron replacements, bridges…

It was like have a user car salesman doing my teeth.

I switched dentists and she is always like “well, you could do XXX but it’s not really worth the trouble”.

Hey, as a future dentist, I’m the biggest skeptic there is. Since we’re sharing stories…

A few years ago, as a lowly college student, a local dentist passed out coupons around the neighborhood for a $50 cleaning. Sweet! Don’t have to go home for a cleaning, and half price of what the going rate around here is.

2 hours into my cleaning they tell me - via a light/pulse sensor - that I have six cavities. I’d never had a cavity in my damn life! They pressure me to fix them right then an there - at a steal at just under 2k. I tell them I’ll make an appointment later in the week and rush out the door to call my mother, my sensible, if very harsh, mother. Who tells me she’ll bet it all that I have 0 cavities. So I go to the dental school - the very place that doesn’t stand to profit from my mouth. I have a 60 year old professor, retired from 20 years of private practice to teach, tell me I have some of the best enamel she’s seen in her career, and that I’ll never have a cavity so long as I brush just once (once!) a day. Oh, and I don’t have any six or two or four or any cavities then, nor do I now. She had to report him, it was bad. He’s still in practice, though.

But the bad part about filling teeth is the evidence is gone once the filling is in, so who’s the wiser?

I don’t think THIS is a scam. Dogs and cats can have rotten teeth just like people do (especially if they eat a soft diet or lots of people food). The dog I used to have required a dental cleaning because her teeth became very bad as she got older. It would be cruel to let an animal have painful rotten/infected teeth instead of doing a cleaning (and anesthesia is probably the best way to make sure the animal isn’t stressed out by the cleaning).

My dentist wife indicates that unless you have a periodontal problem, you shouldn’t require a periodontal treatment, assuming that it’s as Ichini Sanshigo’s describes (Spanish-speaking dentists don’t use laymans’ terms for anything, and so my wife doesn’t understand what “deep-cleaning” means in this context).

In Michigan, our dentist is always trying to up-sell stuff. I think he’s also responsible for a crappy crown that’s now resulted in my wife’s having needed an implant (even when the labor’s free, as is our case here, importing an implant from the US is expensive as heck!). Let’s see… periodontal cleaning that she didn’t need (she needed a working crown!); fluorescent light examination of the mouth in order to detect cancer; teeth whitening; oh, and a “special” antibiotic injection for some procedure that insurance didn’t cover, although we were free to choose the covered antibiotic. I think I’m going back to the old co-pay insurance next time open enrollment rolls around. :mad:

Last place we lived, our dentist kept pushing some sort of sealant for our teeth. I declined. I’m 56, still have my own teeth, and I just have a few fillings - all this after avoiding a dentist for most of my 20s. Being broke takes care of a lot of “necessary” procedures.

This happened to me too. except it was 2 cavities, I was told. I was really skeptical, so I asked if he was sure. And he shakes my hand and says, ‘trust me.’ That was his big mistake.

I went to another dentist who told me that I didn’t have any cavities. That was 10 years ago and another dentist later and those 2 phantom cavities never materialized.

I also went to a dentist who pushed root planing. When I went to another dentist, I was told that my gums were healthy and that root planing wasn’t necessary for me.

To the OP, I’d get a second opinion, if possible.

That’s been my experience, too. For eight or so years I didn’t go to the dentist because I couldn’t afford it; my cleaning after eight years was just average, and the hygienist didn’t say there was anything particularly wrong with my gums or teeth. With my latest dentist, I think they’re from the Walking Wallet school of dentistry - my last hygienist was practically telling my my gums were going to fall out of my head. They scaled my roots and all that in January, and my teeth are finally settling down again.

This. Vets will also pull any decayed or broken teeth while they’re working in there. And trust me, you DO want this done - dog/cat breath is never pleasant, but you haven’t really suffered until you’ve had a cat with 9 (!) bad teeth who likes to put her face right up to yours.

Definitely not with a dog with a small jaw, like my chihuahua. He’s already lost teeth, and he’s at a big risk for breaking his jaw.

So what should a full-on, four quandrant deep cleaning cost, on average?

A dentist once griped to me about how bad the insurance I carried was and then proceeded to tell me she only accepted it to get new patients (of which I was one). Next visit I suddenly had five cavities! I was thunderstruck. Five? I declined to have work begin right away. I called back several months later, and she was no longer accepting the insurance.

I found a new dentist and had the mysterious cavities checked right away. She was baffled as to why I was told I had five cavities. I told her what I’d been told. She asked another dentist in the office to look. Nada.

Fast-forward 15 years and I’ve been going to a third practice for the last 10 of them. Never once has a cavity been found. :rolleyes:

You know this is scary… My son has had two expensive root canals and my Mom said if they say he needs another one to get a second opinion. He is only 26 with no cavities and he started going to a big dental place and he has great insurance.

Dirty Dentists? Say it isn’t so!