Has Dentistry Failed Kentuckians?
I moved from Orange County, California to Kentucky about 8 years ago and was shocked at what I saw, with regards to dentistry.
Poor quality care seems to be “accepted as the norm” by most patients and dentists. If you have been reading my blogs then you know I am always pretty straight forward with my opinions. I tell it as it is – no beating around the bush.
So, when I received an extra large, beautiful, glossy mailer from a large local dental chain touting that they are “the area’s most trusted name in dentistry” (how do you determine that anyhow? Maybe we need to request their survey…), I had to bow my head and say a little prayer for all the patients I have seen coming form that chain to my office to fix botched dentistry…
Trust is earned through years of meticulously high standards and impeccable morals. Below are some some facts about Kentucky a well as a short story written recently about managed care here in Kentucky. You be the judge…the most trusted name in dentistry…
- In 2001, about half of Kentucky’s children had decay in their primary teeth.
- In 2004, Kentucky led the nation in missing teeth among people age 65 and older.
- Some 27 percent of Kentuckians of all ages had lost six or more teeth to decay or gum disease, compared to nearly 18 percent nationwide.
- 46.8 percent of children ages 2, 3 and 4 had untreated problems such as a cavity or a missing tooth. That’s more than twice the national average.
- Nearly 40 percent of these children had never seen a dentist.
PP: What are the market forces that have resulted in private equity-owned chains providing dentistry?
Heath: These days, when dentists get out of dental school, they often owe anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000 dollars. Dental school is actually more expensive than medical school. So they come out with these huge debts, in a lot of cases they can’t really afford to start their own practice.
These dental chains hire people, a lot of the time right out of dental school, and they pay fairly decent salaries and they have a bonus system where the more work you do on a patient the more you get paid. That’s true for a private dentist as well, but the difference is that these companies are owned by private equity firms, and they’re managed in a different way. You have people who are not dentists coming up with a business plan that’s based on metrics. They try to get new patients in who haven’t been to the dentist in a while, and they’ve already calculated how much revenue the average new patient should generate.
If you happen to go in and you don’t really have anything wrong with your mouth and you’re a new patient you’re not fitting the model. That creates pressure for the dentists to find things that are ‘wrong.’
If you can’t participate in a quality group plan – either a preferred provider plan (PPO) or a Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) – the best way for most people to come out ahead on dental expenses is to pay for everything out of pocket. Brushing and flossing regularly, switching to an inexpensive electric toothbrush, getting professional cleanings every six months and going to a dentist who does high quality work that lasts for years can be the most effective ways to save money in the long run.
There is unfortunately too much information on the web about the poor state of dentistry in Kentucky. I personally feel that any company that touts they are “the most trusted name in dentistry” here in Kentucky should take a closer look at what quality dentistry really is and how we can elevate the standards here in Kentucky.
Ideal Dentistry has taken a different approach, as actually recommended by the article above. We focus on you, the patient, and “fix” the mouth, not just breaking teeth. We get to the root cause of the decay and pain. Our approach fixes the gums, preventing gum disease, attacks bacteria that aid in decay, and treats functional issues of the mouth that result in wear in tear of your teeth. We stand behind our quality 100% – delivering the same quality care to you as we do to our own family.
If Kentucky wants to keep being one of the worst dental health States in the USA, then keep it up: lower fees, lower quality, grow managed care offices that tout to be the “most trusted name” and ignore nutrition. BUT, if Kentucky wants to become healthier then I suggest we do exactly the opposite of what has been done! Let’s elevate quality, reduce the influence of managed care and put the focus back on the patient, not the insurance company.
For those patients looking for a better solution, Ideal Dentistry is here. When you are ready to upgrade to a healthier option, then come visit Ideal Dentistry and escape the dental cycle. We are serious about your smile.