Gentle Dental? Not When Thousands Complain About Billing and Care!
In Business to Sell, Sell, Sell!
There are thousands of complaints about Gentle Dental. Shoddy care, dirty offices, upbilling scams are some of the most common complaints posted. Gentle Dental offers family dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons and cosmetic dentists, according to their website. They give five patient testimonials about how great their patients think they are! Maybe five is all they could find! There are so many complaints on the internet that they would take days to read. So many reports to the Better Business Bureau; some people are so outraged by the practices of this company that they have created entire websites devoted to garnering customer complaints. Trying to warn others: Just don't go to them!
As near as I can tell Gentle Dental is also known as InterDent. It is the result of Gentle Dental merging with Dental Care Alliance in 1999. According to their websites, they have affiliated locations in Hawaii, Washington State, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas. But, Dental Care Alliance still exists and operates in almost as many states as Gentle Dental. There are complaints against Dental Care Alliance as well. They will be covered in a future article.
Gentle Dental is the nation's largest dental practice management company. They have over 120 affiliated dental practices and claim to treat over one million patients annually. Their clinics dot the map, running up and down the state of California, with their toll free 1-800-Gentle1 phone number quite visibly advertised. Their website states that they accept cash, major credit cards, insurance and they offer(in every office) their patients GE Care Credit (interest free financing). Just how interest-free is GE Care Credit? Well, they are being investigated for fraud by the Attorney General of the state of New York. Several other states across the country are also investigating their questionable lending practices. The internet is full of nightmare stories about this 'interest free' medical and dental credit card, ending up costing thousands in unexpected charges! Your dentist even gets a commission if you sign up for this card! There are more complaints about this dental credit card than there are complaints about Gentle Dental on the net! What is it they say about 'Birds of a Feather'?
Upbilling is a practice which is fraudulent. It consists of providing one service, yet billing for a more expensive service. It is very easy to do and very hard to get caught unless a patient is well-versed in the standardized billing process and the use of billing codes. That is why it is so important to request from your dental clinic or dental office a complete list of the codes that are going to be billed. Even if you do not understand them, before you agree to work, check with your insurance company. They will tell you what each code means. If you think you are being billed for work you don't know about, or work you don't agree to, your dental insurance company will intervene on your behalf.
One of the most common complaints about Gentle Dental is that they pull the 'bait and switch'. They offer a free cleaning and then when you get there, they tell you that you have severe gum disease(your teeth are going to fall out) and a regular cleaning will not help you. You will require a 'deep cleaning'. That is scraping both above and below the gum line. It is more expensive, but most insurance companies cover it. The insurance companies DO NOT cover the antibiotic rinse that they say is necessary. Your insurance company does not cover the rinse because the effectiveness of the rinse has never been proven. That rinse alone usually costs well over $300.00. In addition, complaints state that Gentle Dental even charges for the gel used to numb you during the procedure. That also, is not allowed because it is a part of the procedure and is included in the procedure. There should never be an added charge for the numbing gel! It is like saying, "I am going to charge you $5,000.00 for your surgery, but you also have to pay for the knife I am going to cut you with. That will be an additional $5,000.00." Absurd!
The hard sell tactics are a hint, actually this hint should hit you in the face and make your teeth hurt! Whenever someone puts the hard sell on you, run for the nearest exit! The complaints I have read that pertain to Gentle Dental make it sound like their business model is more akin to that of a used car salesman than a professional dental office. Sell! Sell! Sell!
Gentle Dental and Crowns: Beware!
I went to an affiliated Gentle Dental office a few years ago for a root canal. They were the group that I chose for my dental insurance and I really hadn't paid much attention to the choice because my fear of the dentist makes me believe that I will never need dental care. The root canal had to be done by a specialist that was not with them, but I was instructed that they would be doing the crown. When I came back to pick out the crown, they told me my insurance would not cover my choice and that the cost to me would be $900.00. I knew that my insurance would pay for this particular crown, because I had already checked with them. My cost would be $60.00, so when I told the finance manager, she argued with me, would not get on the phone with the insurance company and insisted that I was wrong. For 6 weeks we argued, and then my insurance company sent me to a different dentist for the crown. For some reason, the new dentist charged $60.00 for the crown, without even knowing any of the background information.
Sure enough, Gentle Dental called me after 6 weeks and said that they had made an error and they could give me the crown I wanted for $60.00. Well, apparently they had reconsidered. They knew I needed additional extensive work. They may have figured they could make much more than the $900.00 and catch me unaware during the other work. That was not going to happen. I steer clear of any office that displays that 1-800 number.
What To Do If You Feel Victimized!
If you feel you have been a victim of Gentle Dental, there are avenues available to you.
First, your dental insurance company can help! They do not want to pay out more money than they are supposed to, so they will take the time with you. Do not speak with a customer service representative. They have the least amount of training and may have knowledge that is equal to your own. Always ask for a supervisor! Be prepared and come to the conversation with the billing codes. If you see any codes that end in 99, be warned! A code ending in 99 is usually not payable. A dentist or even a doctor can use a 99 code when they can't find a code that clearly states what they are going to do. The 99 simply means that the service is unspecified. I guarantee that there is a real code for what they are going to do. The billing staff is either uneducated as to correct billing or the dental office is attempting to scam you! Prior to the conversation, make sure you have a written description next to each of the codes, especially any 99 codes. Do not ever agree to have any work done if there are any 99 codes on your bill! The codes must be changed!
After the conversation with the supervisor, ask for a reference number. That is the only guarantee that your call is being documented.
Second, your state most likely has a state sponsored regulatory agency that deals with dentists. In California, it is called The Dental Board of California. They can be contacted online at www.dbc.ca.gov. They have complaint forms available online and they DO prosecute. File a complaint with them. They WILL respond and they will refer criminal behavior to the Attorney General. Additionally, send the Attorney General a letter of complaint. The more letters a state agency gets, the more likely they are to investigate questionable behavior and crack down. If your complaint concerns GE Care Credit, the Attorney General of your state will be interested to hear it.
Third, you can sue. But be careful here! According to reports that I have seen on the web, Gentle Dental comes with a vast array of attorneys! And according to reports, they often countersue in a higher court where you are required to have an attorney of your own. That appears to be how they get out of lawsuits. They, according to complaints I have read, just end up pounding you and pounding you and soon you will submit. That toothache you had will be nothing in comparison to the financial pain you may experience.
Fourth, the best advice that I can give is this: If there are so many complaints from so many people about one company, take their advice and just go somewhere else. Nothing speaks louder than a lack of customers. If you have any doubts as to whether you are a simply a customer or a patient, read the myriad of complaints on the internet. You will quickly come to the conclusion that you are only a customer. Tell your friends and family. Word of mouth can bring results.
Finally, after reading hundreds of complaints and through my own experience, the only rational conclusion should be simply: Buyer beware!