How Dentists Rip Us Off [William Ecenbarger]

Dated Feb 1, 1997; last modified on Thu, 02 Sep 2021

How Dentists Rip Us Off. William Ecenbarger. https://digitalsmiledesign.com/files/Old-Website-Assets/PDF/How-Dentists-Rip-Us-Off.pdf . Feb 1, 1997.

This piece was brought up in “Is Dentistry a Science?" ( summary ). Looks like this piece has done its rounds in dentist online spaces.

Ecenbarger pitch: moving into the area; had done gum surgery; had a direct-reimbursement program to cover expenses; interested in good oral health; no desire for cosmetic improvements

Ecenbarger had a control panel that agreed that #30 needed a cap/filling, and #18 was on the fence. The fees would be \(\approx $500\) and at most \($1,500\) if two crowns were suggested.

Visiting 50 dentists across the US. Of the 20 listed in the appendix, mean = \($6,550\), min = \($1,197\), max = \($29,850\), median = \($2,864\), stddev = \($7,576\). And this was in 1997.

9/50 wanted to consult the periodontist that had done the gum surgery. For ADA-recommended screenings, only 21/50 checked oral cancer, and 14/50 checked periodontal. These exams would have cost $20 to $141. Ecenbarger concludes that they’re not worth the dentists' time.

Creighton University School of Dentistry: You need a crown on #30. I’d like to crown #18. The cost is \($460\). The student confirmed the diagnosis with a senior dentist.

The moral of this piece seems to be that Dental Schools are your best bet.

American Dental Association: dentistry is an art based on scientific knowledge; we encourage seeking additional opinions. Ecenbarger, however, got 50 opinions and they were all over the place.


Dr. Roger Levin’s Critic The quality of service, location, dentists' experience, tech being used, and safety standards factor into the pricing. Cosmetic treatments are different from restorative treatments. How was the original panel constructed? Did the dentists get a chance to explain their fees? Levin then proceeeds to offer advice on how to deal with patients with respect to the article.