Many years ago, I read Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential.
Quite a few things from that book stuck with me over the years, but one thing I remember the most was his aversion to discount sushi.
Here’s the passage:
I saw a sign the other day outside one of those Chinese-Japanese hybrids that are beginning to pop up around town, advertising ‘Discount Sushi’. I can’t imagine a better example of Things To Be Wary Of in the food department than bargain sushi.
I never order fish on Monday, unless I’m eating at a four-star restaurant where I know they are buying their fish directly from the source. I know how old most seafood is on Monday – about four to five days old!
Essentially, Bourdain was saying: Discount sushi is not something you should want, because the food quality is almost certainly poor, and you’re probably going to get sick.
In my industry of dentistry, I have similar advice for those people that actively seek out a discount dentist:
I can’t imagine a better example of Things To Be Wary Of in the dentistry department than bargain dentists.
In this post, I’ll explain why bargain dentists can often end up costing you up to 4x more money.
Sometimes it’s great to bargain shop. With some products, apples are sometimes just apples. Getting a great price on a new car or a new iPad is great – because the product is just the product.
Services are a different beast. Dentistry is a service, and it’s important to realize that not all dentistry services are the same.
Like many other things in life, you get what you pay for.
A quick example of this:
Cheap dentists use the cheapest materials they can find. Cheap dental materials often break, cause allergic reactions, or more problems.
In the end, you’ll be back, paying more money to fix that.
I get it. Dentistry can be expensive.
Many people just don’t have much money, and a dentist’s visit can represent real financial hardship. Even for those that have the money, they’d rather spend it on just about anything else other than fixing their teeth.
Seeking out a cheap dentist above all else is not the answer, because it ultimately costs more.
Like Bourdain with sushi, I can’t fathom understand why people would seek out cheap/bargain/discount dentistry, except for the (false) belief that they are saving money somehow.
But they are not saving money at all. They end up spending up to 4x more money!
I’ll tell you exactly why this is next.
More often than not, here’s how these things go with the dental bargain-hunter:
- Pay for cheap work that inevitably fails (there’s an infection or allergy, bad or negligent work, or pain).
- Pay more to remove and fix the cheap dentist’s cheap work.
- Pay more to fix the original (still unfixed) problem.
- Pay more to fix any additional problems that have arisen as a direct result of the cheap work (decay, infections, allergic reactions, etc.).
Many people can throw in additional steps (and cost!) between #1 and #2 if they go back to the cheap dentist to fix the same failing work again and again, before getting wise enough to move on to a dentist focused on quality.
I argue all this not because I necessarily want your business, I argue from standpoint of experience. I’ve seen hundreds of people come into my dentistry that had to pay me more of their hard-earned money just to fix the bad, failing, “cheap” work they never should have gotten in the first place!
There’s a engineer’s philosophy that should be pervasive when people consider getting dental work done: Just get the job done right – the first time.
Sometimes I lose patients because they want a dentist that takes their specific dental insurance. Many of them eventually come back for the reasons listed above.
If you get dental insurance through your employer, that’s great… but it’s certainly not worth paying out of pocket for!
By the way, if you’re asking yourself, Why don’t dentists accept dental insurance? The short answer is: Many times the rates dental insurances pay the dentist don’t even cover the expenses for your treatment!
What happens with the dentists that accept all insurance, and get paid very little for the work? They have a paper-thin profit margin. They certainly can’t afford high quality materials, and they won’t spend much time with any patient.
If you hire one of these cheap dentists to fix your teeth solely because they take your insurance… good luck! I hope it works out for you.
As I mentioned, many (if not most) of these people come back to my practice, for the reasons listed previously.
I live and work in San Diego County. Not only have I heard the stories of people that travel across the border to Mexico to get major dental work done, I quite often get to clean up the mess and damage that many of these “bargain” dentists have done.
It’s a really bad idea to try to save yourself a buck by going across the border – not only for the reasons listed above, but for reasons of licensure, liability and warranty. If you get horrendous dental work in Mexico, it’s just deemed, “You get what you pay for”. Even if they seriously mess up your teeth and/or health, you have no recourse for negligent care.
In the US, although it’s more expensive to get proper dental treatment, there is always recourse if a doctor is negligent in care.
Maybe you have started to see a common theme: These bargain hunters end up spending a lot more money on their dental problems than if they just would have focused on getting their teeth fixed right in the first place by a modern, quality-focused dentist.
As I’ve written before, I’m interested in doing the job correctly and safely. I stand behind the quality of my work by giving patients a 5-year warranty on all major dental work. New cars don’t even come with a 5-year warranty.
While I might be “more expensive” upfront, I guarantee you will save money in the long run.