Don’t Fall for These Dental Scams

by Debra Karplus

Don't Fall for These Dental Scams photo

Is that fabulous dental offer that you received in the mail legit? Perhaps not. We explore how dental scams work and what to watch for.

You are proud of yourself for all the money you have saved by not having ever had any dental insurance because the out-of-pocket cost of the twice yearly dental cleaning and exam and the occasional dental x-rays has not been too pricey. But as even basic dental care has become more expensive and you have worked hard to be frugal and not wasteful, you wonder if there is a more affordable way to receive routine dental work.

Then a glossy post card arrives in the mail from a place that you have seen advertised on television. For only $19, new patients who have no dental insurance can receive a dental exam and x-rays. You really like your regular dentist, but this advertised offer appears way too good to pass up.

Should you take advantage of this fabulous dental offer? Experts recommend against it, claiming that these places will scam you and that these offers are a form of bait and switch.

A deal that is too good to be true usually is just that!

If you have ever taken your car to one of the inexpensive franchise oil change places, you likely have experienced the mechanic searching for you in the waiting room to inform you of some terrible and dangerous problems going on with your car that you should attend to immediately and that this particular auto shop can perform those repairs.

Well, some of the national dental care franchises that offer these great promotions to new patients operate in much the same way. One experienced dental hygienist, who was looking for a new job, shared that she refused to apply at any of these franchise dental clinics because of some of their questionable ethical practices.

So before you pick up the phone to make an appointment for this incredible dental care offer, you should quickly throw the promotional mail in the recycling. And, you can read some of the commentary at regarding dental care scams.

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Expect to get more treatment than your regular dentist would ever recommend.

Not unlike taking your car into a shop for cheap routine work, some franchise dental care clinics will insist upon some additional services that they feel you absolutely need to save your teeth. They’ll be over-treating you at a huge out-of-pocket expense to you. Some critics identify this practice as bait and switch and a form of “medical bullying,” which may include unnecessary extractions, root canal procedures to “save” a tooth, overuse of anesthetic and dental prosthetics, permanently ruining some of your teeth that weren’t quite so bad in the first place.

Additionally, patients state that some of these places simply seem very unprofessional. One dental hygienist who had worked at one of these franchise dental care clinics for a brief period also shared that new patients who had minor periodontal issues and gum problems were charged much more than the advertised $19. She also confided that sometimes at the clinic a tooth would “accidentally” be knocked out. She experienced a dental piece being made with a poor fit on purpose; there was a steep additional charge for the re-fit!

Also, besides exploiting you, consumer protection experts say that these franchise dental care clinics participate in various types of insurance fraud, including deliberate errors in insurance coding and over billing.

What can you do to avoid being scammed in the dental chair?

Don’t be tempted by these seemingly good offers to receive a free or cheap dental exam and x-ray. But if you are already in the dentist chair at one of these clinics and you are getting “bad vibes,” close your mouth, yank off that white dental bib, and run. And be sure to get a second opinion of the treatment procedures that were recommended at this advertised dental clinic.

Consumer scams are part of the world of today. Some involve service for our vehicles. Other scams come from shady people performing a variety of home improvement services, and then there are scams that involve personal health services. Purchase dental insurance if you can afford it and stick with a dentist that you know and trust, and willingly just pay the $150 to $200 or so for your six-month dental cleaning and exam.

Above all, practice excellent oral hygiene, which involves brushing all surfaces of your teeth while holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle for two minutes twice each day. Your smile will inspire others.

Reviewed November 2022

About the Author

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon (Kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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