Friday, July 1, 2011
Aspen Dental Clinic: The Clinic That Isn't
Having learned the hard way (of course) to walk the straight-and-narrow of the insurance guidelines, I was careful to choose a dentist within the program network, confirm treatment eligibility and take note of anything that was excluded in our policy.
Spending almost an hour on the preliminary telephone inquiries, the day and time came for our back-to-back appointments.
We arrived early -- appointments were running late. Did I hear an alarm here? I asked again about the procedure line-up and reiterated our desire to have our teeth cleaned and get an exam. We did not want any x-rays beyond the bite-wings that were covered by insurance.
"Aspen Dental Clinic requires an in depth initial visit", I was told and a panorama digital x-ray would be made. "I won't pay for it" was met with, "there'll be no charge". Alarms should have sounded and perhaps they did but I still didn't hear them.
More than 30 hi-definition digital x-rays were made, of my individual teeth, I'm told. A panorama hi-def digital x-ray was made. It's 30 minutes into my appointment time. I reminded them we would not pay for all these x-rays. I wonder if they're hearing me. Aspen Dental Clinic's office manager assured me that even our $19.99 office visit fee would be waived. Too good to be true? -- probably. An alarm sound was buzzing around in my head by now.
Along with my portfolio of computerized, hi-def, digital, supersonic x-rays, I was escorted to the dental chair. Waited for the hygienist to come in. I had absolutely no interest in the crystal clear picture on the personal television clamped onto the medical equipment in front of me. No, I didn't like to watch cooking channels. I did flip over and stop on "Dog Whisperer" though.
A smiling young Oriental woman came up behind me, introduced herself as Dr. So-and-so, the dentist. She complimented my beautiful teeth. Now, I might have been born at night, but it wasn't last night: my teeth are not beautiful. Who does she think she's talking to? Maybe it's the southern drawl syndrome again. Everybody thinks southern people are hillbillies with second grade educations. I think my eyes rolled but I'm not sure.
Now in my recent years of dental experience, I always get the cleaning first -- dental exam second. Dr. So-in-so proceeded to flip the small screen from tv to computer mode where I saw the icky black and white images of my mouth and teeth. Doc began to pick and probe around my teeth and gum line and exclaims that the gap on the left lower side must have been an "extra" tooth as I have the correct number of teeth and, yet, she sees that a tooth had been removed from that space. No other dentist ever told me that. She preceded to give code language to the assistant sitting behind me. The codes kept coming and I heard words like "leaking, cracking, decay" before she gave me a basketful of bad dental news. Seems Doc So-in-so feels all the silver fillings I had replaced last year were done wrong. She found had decay and cracks in my teeth and a lower right jaw tooth was on the verge of failing altogether. She sees a huge amount of decay under an existing (and new) filling. Naturally, I was devastated. Gee, what's that bell I'm hearing so loud in my head?
By now, I'm being led around by the office manager who seems sympathetic. Dr. So-in-so disappears and I can hear her introducing herself to Wayne, who's in for his own bad news. Duh.
Office Manager sits me in front of her business-looking desk and asks about my current toothbrush after which she begins a sales pitch for the electronic toothbrush displayed beside her. "Not interested," I exclaim, anxious to get on with the dental cleaning and needing to escape to think over all the bad news I've just gotten.
After what seemed like an eternity of "dental fluff" talk, Office Manager presented me with a package of paper entitled "Treatment Acceptance and Payment Arrangement Form" with an "Accepted Treatment Plant Estimate" total of $8,698. "What does all this money buy?" I wondered. It would pay for the exam, x-rays, two-part hygiene treatment with prescription medications, take home products, 5 build-up and crowns and 7 composite fillings.
Now let me be clear here: Eighteen months ago, I had an extensive dental exam, had all my old silver fillings replaced with the new, nice, white composite ones. I was really getting angry and those bells were alarming full bore.
"I'll think about it" I barked and asked where I should go for my cleaning. "You're all finished for today" says Office Manager. I specifically made this appointment for an exam and a cleaning and I told her so. Office Manager retorted that she knew I wanted my teeth clean but the hygienist was not in the office today. She offered an appointment card for Friday to get my teeth cleaned.
Wayne went through nearly the same routine but it was abbreviated somewhat. His Treatment Acceptance and Payment Arrangement Form totaled $3,545.
We left Aspen Dental Clinic with dirty teeth and a really bad taste in our mouths.
There was some good news -- we paid nothing monetarily -- a half-day in our time.
We won't be going back. What a waste of time.