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I refuse to pay for this dental service - how should I proceed?

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 

My 5 year old DD was referred to a pediatric dentist to fill a cavity. She has already had a cavity filled with another dentist. She was a trooper except she would not tolerate the dental dam. She couldn't breathe with it on. So with this new dentist, we told him upfront that she did not like the dental dam and couldn't breathe with it on, but said that he could give it a TRY if he wanted.


He placed the dental dam and DD cried and cried. Later she told us that she was trying to tell us we couldn't breathe, but of course with the thing in her mouth she couldn't. There was also a device that kept her mouth open, which was also unnecessary and panic-inducing. With the previous dentist, she opened her mouth as requested and complied with everything (sometimes having to be reminded to open wider, but no big deal).


DH and I were kind of beside ourselves watching this (and we're both struggling with post-procedure guilt and other feelings that we didn't stop it before). We KNEW she couldn't tolerate the dam. But the dentist REFUSED to remove it. When DD kept crying, he said that she was not cooperating and he couldn't finish the procedure. DH told him that he could finish it if he removed the dam, that the dam was the sole issue. The dentist said he would not remove it, and he put in a temporary filling. There were words. I have other complaints about the dentist too, but my primary issue is that his inflexibility on the dam was the sole reason the procedure could not be completed.


The upshot is that we have a temporary filling that we are going to have to get fixed, plus a traumatized 5 year old who never wants to go to a dentist again. I refuse to pay for a treatment that could have EASILY been successful except for the dentist's refusal. The bill we were presented with was for an amount slightly higher than the filling we had gotten before, so I doubt any discount was applied. And of course we'll have to pay for the procedure again elsewhere.


My husband and I talked with the office manager but she could not say anything other than "I don't know what to say." Apparently there were no procedures or anything. She could not help us in any way. Finally my husband said he was not going to pay it and we left.


I assume they will send us a bill, and I assume if we don't pay it they will send it to collections.


I would like to figure out the best way of going about this is. We are not going back to that dentist, so there is nothing to work out (for example, having the fees applied toward the next treatment). We are worse off than we were before we came (cavity is not fixed, and DD had a bad experience which will make it harder next time). I assume I should write a letter formally refusing to pay and explaining (better than I did above) why. I assume I should send it signature required.


I doubt that will stop them from doing anything but if this goes to a lawyer, I'm sure the letter will help. I'd rather pay a lawyer the fee than this dentist, but this is probably wishful thinking since the dental bill is probably worth no more than 1 hour of a lawyer's time.


So, does a consumer have any rights? Or do I just choose between paying this inept ass or having this go on my record for 7 years? I am not concerned with my credit score (it's about 800 last I checked, but I am not planning to use credit, luck willing) but I sure am not looking forward to 7 years of collection letters and calls. This visit was traumatic enough to not get a frequent reminder of it up until DD becomes a teenager.

post #2 of 39

Do you not have dental insurance that will at least cover a portion of the visit?  I  hope you can get it worked out.  I wouldn't ruin good credit over a dental bill.  They will probably let you pay payments before sending it off into collections, and I would personally apply for Care Credit or similar before not paying it at all.  I do get that it sucks b/c of how it all went down and your DD still needs to go elsewhere, but if they won't drop the charges, then you are stuck with the debt. 

post #3 of 39
Thread Starter 

Do so many people have dental insurance that it's a surprise that I don't? That's not snark, I was wondering about that before since the dentist offices always ask for our insurance card rather than just asking if we have one. I always figured a minority of people had dental insurance.


No, we don't have any insurance.


I dunno, I think I'd rather live with the collections than pay this inept _______ ________ ______.


Seriously, if a dentist's office anywhere decided to send me a bill for anything, my only options are to pay or go to collections? The minute someone decides I owe them something, I do?

post #4 of 39

I had dental insurance at my prior job and researched it heavily for our company.  It covers surprisingly little, you basically prepay for preventitive services.  There are great plans but they are crazy expensive.


You don't have anything to lose by writing the letter and I would require a signature.  Depending on how they handle unpaid bills, the dentist might let it go.  If they go to the local district justice, there is time and filing fees involved and depending the amount, they might decide it isn't worth it since you are already being proactive with your case. 


This has nothing to do with your original post but your experience is similar to at least 5 others I have heard about pedi dentists.

post #5 of 39
I thought maybe you didn't have insurance, but asked b/c I know they often send/give a bill before seeing what insurance will pay. We do have dental insurance (I think it's like $40 a month for all 6 of us), but it still sucks b/c we've paid $1200 in the last couple months just for DH's teeth - and that's after what insurance covers. We are liable for the full amount until insurance comes through - so I wasn't sure if your bill would be greatly reduced at that point.

I'm not sure legally - but I assume there is something in the initial paperwork stating that you agree to pay for services you receive. I know some people have luck contesting certain aspects of hospital bills - so maybe there is a way to do so for dental, too.

Hopefully you get some good advice.
post #6 of 39
Thread Starter 

Heh, I looked up the stats and between 66% and 85% of Americans have dental insurance. I did not know that. Lucky them.


Originally Posted by Caneel View Post

This has nothing to do with your original post but your experience is similar to at least 5 others I have heard about pedi dentists.

I am very interested in hearing more about that. In what way similar - insistence on a dental dam (which I've never come across - heck, I've only had one dentist so far who used them at all, but he was the one that did DD before and he TRIED the dam but was willing to ditch it)? Or just overall not being able to work with a kid?


The previous dentist was able to finish the filling but he was not good with kids. Any crying upset him, even if was just a little "ehhhhhh" kind of sound while he was doing something. At one point he told her she was being "a bad girl." So we did not go back to him, and chose a pediatric dentist because, ostensibly, they work with kids, right? But this guy blamed everything on DD (we even told him about a probable latex allergy she had, and he spent 3 or 4 minutes insisting to us that she probably did not have one, that she probably bit and chewed her cheek. We didn't bother to argue, but we watched the whole time and she had no OPPORTUNITY to bite her cheek, and the reaction was on her cheek where the dentist had his gloved finger quite a bit of the time). He put in the novocaine and did not ask her to report sensations of numbness or swelling - in fact, he started drilling only 30 seconds later. I've had my teeth filled enough to know they usually wait a few minutes. Throughout the procedure he made comments like "she's not letting me do this" etc. She's 5 years old and she was being suffocated! He didn't spend ANY effort on her comfort or making sure she was ok, just jammed in the needle and started drilling like a madman, only occasionally stopping to make some pointed comment about her behavior while she was suffocating. Then he announced he would not finish. My husband was so mad, and like I said, there were words. We all feel kind of traumatized today. I'm supposed to be working on this project but I'm having a lot of difficulty concentrating. What the hell is with pediatric dentists, I'd like to know?

post #7 of 39
hug.gif DS was traumatized by a botched blood draw at a lab and I'm still kicking myself for not just picking him up & walking out of there!

I would ask them to send you a statement agreeing to dismiss the charges (or send you a copy of your account with a balance of zero). If they are unable/unwilling to do this, I would report them to the BBB -- they should be able to help settle the dispute. Be aware though, that if you go that route, the dentist could fax the BBB something you may have signed beforehand agreeing to pay etc. so there is no guarantee that this will work out in your favor, but it's worth a shot.

We had to go through the BBB twice -- first was for a gym membership and we 'won' on that. Second was for a big dental chain that likes to scam people... and we 'lost' on that one, even though they had outright lied to & manipulated us, but they had a little signed piece of paper and we just didn't have solid ground to stand on so we gave up (it was not a significant sum of money, otherwise we might have pursued it further).

(And we sometimes have dental insurance, skip it other years... we do think of it as paying in advance for preventative, so we only carry ins. when we know we will be able to fit in a certain number of preventatives during the year.)
post #8 of 39

shoot, I have a long post typed out and long it.


Concerning my statement about pedi dentists - when it came time to take DS for his first appointment, I assumed that I would take to the pedi practice a few towns over.  When I started asking around, I came to learn that many parents took their kids there once and didn't return.  The reason was the same, that the dentists were gruff and "mean"  I know one person's "mean" can be another's normal but I was getting the same reports from a broad range of parents.


A former co-worker (and close friend) had a horrible experience with her 10 yo son.  He needed some extensive work done.  They would not allow her in the room (their policy was no parents in the room), he started crying, she tried to go into the procedure room, a nurse tried to physically restrain her and it got ugly.


Basically, what I learned was the ped dentists were not any more tender, caring or kid-friendly then a regular dentist.  The parents I talked to were expecting the dentists to be "good with kids" and none found that to be the case in this particular practice.

post #9 of 39

I would file with the BBB  and I would also file a complaint with your state dental board. This guy SUCKS big time,and it should be noted on his records. Also you should fill out every online site for him so others can avoid the trauma your child went through.



My dd was a bit past 4 when she got 2-3 composite fillings. I had it done by the 3rd dentist I checked out. The first was a ped woman who wanted to do laughing gas and talked about dd maybe needing silver caps and such. Second was a lady that took medicaid.She insisted on amalgam fillings,and rolled it in her fingers to prove how safe it is. Last was a guy who did all ages.Dd did not even need a shot,and they asked often if she was ok.Never heard of a dam,but I doubt I would want it in my mouth.Refuse it. I did hear of boards they tie kids too.Oh yea the first dentist did not allow parents in the room.The other 2 did. I sat with dd and 1yo ds watced too.


Now we go to a lady that does all ages and we are allowed in the room.No dam,no board,and they make no stink about me wanting composite over amalgam,and not fluoride treatment.


I know it is hard,but if your kid is not ok tell them to stop and that you will do it another day.If your child  can't talk tell them to give the code move like a hand wave or thumbs up.Something you will know  it means to stop.Once home you can talk more with your child to determine IF you will ever go to that person again.


LOL,I know about the vein digging.Dh and I have dealt with it,but refuse to let people dig in the kids veins.


Best wishes and hugs for the kids who went through poor care.Stinks when you deal with people like that.


If you decide to pay it send $5 a month! I did that with a jerk doctor once.

post #10 of 39
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies, they are helpful. I think we will be taking the advice about the letter, BBB and state board. We'll probably just start with a letter and go from there.


I've read advice on MDC to make sure you are with the child during the procedure, and DH and I have mentally prepared to insist or walk if need be. Also given the previous dentist, I had mentally prepared to draw the line with certain things, but I kind of failed. At some point I did say to DH that we could just call it quits and leave, when DH told me the dentist had already said he would not continue (I'm hearing impaired so I miss stuff like that, sigh). DH was the one who went into assertive mode, thank goodness for him. It's amazing how traumatized a family can get about a stupid thing like this - DH and I are having trouble moving on today.

post #11 of 39
I once had dental service I refused to pay for. I wrote a 3 page letter documenting the experience, outlining areas I thought he was negligent, and quoting the additional costs I had incurred due to his actions. I closed by requesting he zero out my balance owed to his practice. He did, and, I heard nothing further. Send your letter by certified mail, if possible.
But, I wouldn't ruin good credit over a dental bill, either.
Hope your dd feels better soon!
post #12 of 39

I would start with a letter to the dentist about your experience that day.  Is this a single person office or a practice?  Ive found single person offices much easier to deal with.  Anyway when the bill comes I would re-attach that letter as well as another letter stating you expect this balance to be zero based on the treatment of your DD.

I would also file a complaint with the BBB and the dental licensing board.  (all that should be available online).


I hate dentists and need major work but refuse thanks to an over zealous oral surgeon when I had my wisdom teeth out at age 22.  I saw a dentist 2-3 years ago, I went in for a basic cleaning and the dude sold me a 2k crown and its still not right.  I never got the basic cleaning because 'my teeth were too dirty and i needed the deep cleaning'.   Hummmm no thanks.

post #13 of 39
Well, since the office mgr has already told you they don't have procedures, i doubt you're going to get anywhere. But, I would absolutely put the complaint in writing, and submit a copy to the BBB. I would also make a point of going to every dental referral website you can find and reviewing this guy. As for them sending it to collections, if your score is 800, 1 ding is not going to kill you. But you also have the right to submit a written "explanation" of anything on your report to the credit bureaus and they are required to publish that w your report so that anyone viewing it later will know the reason behind it.

As for the collection agencies, all you have to do is tell them they may not contact you by phone, that all correspondence must be in writing. It won't stop the harrasment, but it is easier to ignore the mail than the phone. Considering that you're HoH, it's probably a good idea regardless.

There are good pedi dentists out there, just like there are bad adult dentists.

And i've also had a phlebotomist digging for a vein on my 14 mo... Sometimes we just cant process fast enough to react appropriately. You may want to discuss partial sedation w any future dentist. Not all dentists offer it, but those that do are typically very used to helping traumatized patients, and are typically good at listening to those fears.

Also - any dentist who ignores or brushes off your DD's history of problems is not one you want to use. It was amazing to me the difference in comfort the first time i found a dentist (dental office, since the staff is generally indicative of the dr) who listened when i told them i was tongue tied (making certain xrays painful), and have an over-active gag reflex.

post #14 of 39

I would write the letter, and be sure to include mention of your call to the office manager.  I would not pay no matter what, but we have horrible credit right now and lowering my score is the least of my worries, so I am no help there.  I'm sorry your family had to go through that!

post #15 of 39

We have high credit scores like you do (800+ each). A medical bill went to collections unbeknownst to us (our payment wasn't applied correctly). It made very little difference in our credit rating. We still received offers up the ying-yang and we still qualified for a mortgage refi at the best rates. I only found out about the collections bill when the collector got around to calling and harassing us, which wasn't exactly in a timely manner and they were soooo RUDE. In our case, it was an error and was retracted, so it was removed from our credit reports eventually. It did take awhile to get ironed out, but like I said we were receiving credit offers during that time and refinanced our mortgage during that time. It wasn't a big deal to lenders, but this was back in the mid 2000s. YMMV.

post #16 of 39

I had a really lousy experience a few years back at an urgent care clinic. I used to work as a medical assistant, so some things that may not have been as obvious to the average patient were very obvious to me and I was appalled.


Anyway, they sent me a bill (which I didn't expect) for some tests that my insurance didn't cover. I wrote them a letter describing my experience that day, explaining why I felt justified in not paying that bill, and never heard from them again.

post #17 of 39

If you're going to take a stand and refuse to pay, document everything, take pictures, write up a formal complaint and send it certified mail to the dentist and the BBB. Simply state that you have no intention to pay, and why. 


This isn't a dental issue but we had a plumber ruin our faucet and then charge us for it. I took tons of pictures, and attached them to a formal letter and sent it everywhere I could think of (this is a BIG company). They gave me a lot of push back and said that I was trying to ruin their reputation. They did that themselves though. I was only trying to protect us from having to pay and hopefully prevent it from happening to someone else.



post #18 of 39
I also had a bad experience with an urgent care clinic. At the end of the visit, I asked to pay the balance in full because I wanted to be done with them. So I even received a receipt that said paid in full! But I still received a bill with new charges. Even though I showed them my receipt and check stub, they didn't care.

I would suggest complaining to the BBB and your state Attorney General. Then complain to the Dental Board (whoever holds his license) and at least there will be complaints on file about his crappy demeanor.
post #19 of 39

Okay, the dentist in questions sounds like a huge jerk and I would second or third the complaint to the board that granted him his license.


However, I think he did provide the service you requested and ethically should be paid.  It happens with medical and dental stuff all the time.  DH had a vasectomy that failed (plus a nasty reaction to the Valium he was given).  We still paid the deductible and our insurance still paid it's portion.  By the time we found out it didn't work  it was all paid for already and we were in another deductible year and both the insurance company and my family were on the hook to pay for it again. 

post #20 of 39
Thread Starter 

He didn't provide the service, though. I mean, he is obviously out some costs since he used the novocaine, he and an assistant spent 20 minutes, etc. But the procedure was not finished. We will need to go to another dentist to have the cavity drilled and filled, which could have happened yesterday but did not because of the dentist's (not our) choice. We will need to pay the full amount as if we never went yesterday. Since the tooth was opened, we also are running a risk of infection and who knows what.

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