(Updated Nov. 2, 2020)
This post was prompted by an e-mail I received from Dr. Jeffrey Segal, the CEO of Medical Justice Services, not by a visitor question. But the topic is very relevant for many of our visitors, and that is, what is the impact on the dentist of your asking for a refund for dental work when you’ve had a problem? So I wanted to post this.
One of the worries dentists have about giving a refund is that refunds can go on their record at the National Practitioner Data Bank. They want to avoid this. I recommend giving the dentist an easy way to give you a refund.
Oh, and you need to know that many dentists aren’t aware of these rules, so it may help you to educate them as to the latest rules.
If your demand for a refund is oral and not written, and if the dentist makes the refund himself or herself, rather than going to their insurance company or the corporation the dentist works for, then the refund does not have to be reported. If the demand is written, it needs to be reported. If the corporate entity writes the check, then it also has to be reported.
If I were asking for a refund, and I were getting some resistance from the dentist, I would say something like, “Look, I’m willing to make this easy for you. I’m making this request orally, which means you do not have to report this to the National Practitioner Data Bank. Let’s not make this messy and just keep it simple.”
And then, if you get resistance, you need to know your three basic options for applying pressure to the dentist. You don’t need to threaten to sue in order to apply pressure. Let the dentist know that you are aware of all of these options:
- The first and most gentle option is with negative online reviews. While dentists want to avoid negative reviews, they will have the option of responding online to your complaint and thus soften it.
- The second is to complain to the state dental board. This can be fairly strong pressure. If your complaint is legitimate, the dental board has the power to make things very difficult for the dentist.
- The final option is going to a lawyer. Just a letter from a lawyer can motivate a dentist to action, or you can go to a full-blown lawsuit. But here you not only need a legitimate complaint but a substantial one before a lawyer will be willing to take up your case.
– Dr. Hall
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Do you have a comment or anything else to add? We’d love to hear from you. Enter your comment below. Or click here to ask Dr. Hall a question.
About David A. Hall
Dr. David A. Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does advanced internet marketing for dentists.
benjamin sherr says
I would appreciate your opinion. I had Lumineers done on my lower teeth, five weeks ago. When they first came back I told the Dr. that the color was too white. He had placed them in a temporary state, removed them, and had the lab change the color. I told his office that the new color should match my exiting teeth, A-2.
On the second set, he glued them in withhold showing me or discussing the color.
I think they are still too white. My son was getting married five days after the permanent placement and it seem futile to discuss, after they were placed.
(Benjamin then goes into other problems with these veneers, which you can read if you click through to the blog post linked below.)
Can one determine if the material that was used is defective? I have the broken half
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Response by Dr. Hall:
You have an excellent question, and I’ll address it in a separate post, which you can find by clicking here.
Okay, so I am having a full set of dentures and 8 mini implants done. I went to a local dentist for a consultation and she gave me a estimate that I was very happy with. So she said she would do the dentures but it would be another dentist that would come to her office and do the implants.
So i came in the following Monday for an impression and I even went back for another one and picked my color. Well, here is my problem. I can never get a straight answer about nothing. They are rude. So I got the dentist’s name that was to do the implants and called his office and when I asked them about it they had no idea what i was talking about. So they called my dentist.
When I got back in there to see her she was pissed she said don’t call his office because his office doesn’t know nothing about what he does outside the office. So I am so done with this dentist. I am dishing out 10 grand to get treated like this? I don’t think so. But I have done paid her $1500 dollars. Please anyone with some helpful advice–this is very important to me.
Response from Dr. Hall
If you haven’t had any services yet, you should be able to just get your money back. If you have any trouble, I’d start with complaining to the local dental society. If that doesn’t work, tell her you’re going to the dental board. That should get her attention. If you’ve paid by credit card, you can also complain to the credit card company to get your money back. If it’s a credit card payment, I’d start with the credit card people because there might be a time limit to your complaint, and it’s a pretty straightforward case of not receiving the services, so you should get your money back.
Tonya Dozier says
I went into a normal root canal. As my numbing started to wear off it felt as if someone had taken a bat to my face. The next morning I woke up in terrible pain and a very swollen face for about 3 days. This was on tooth # 10. I called the dentist and he put me on Flagyl. . . .
– Tonya Dozier
(Tonya goes on to describe her dentist’s subsequent behavior, which got to be so rude some might call it bizarre. She posts an excellent question that I think merits its own blog post. Here is a link to what to do when your dentist is really rude.)
Hello Dr. Hall,
The reason I want to speak with you is because I started with on Invisalign October 25th 2016 with a Dentist. We agreed upon me paying $4,675.00.
(Kristen follows explaining a situation where she was told Invisalign would fix her midline, but it didn’t, and now she wants a refund. I answer her question in this blog post: A situation where Invisalign didn’t work.)
Hello, I was hoping to hear your take on a situation I’m faced with. I paid $880 in cash up front for an emergency extraction for an out of network dentist. After unsuccessfully attempting the extraction, he made the decision to perform a pulpectomy instead and told me I had to go to an oral surgeon. Since I did not go to him for the pulpectomy, do I have any leverage in requesting a refund for services not rendered? He charged me $175 for an extraction, $120 for x-rays, $85 for RX medication and an additional $500 fee for it being a “surgical” extraction. He added the $500 after viewing the x-rays. Since the x-rays were performed and the RX medication was dispensed during the procedure, I am fine paying those fees. I just don’t think its fair for me to pay for an extraction that I didn’t have, or for the pulpectomy that I didn’t consent to (which he says was done in lieu of the extraction).
I guess my question is, is he obligated to refund payments for a service he didn’t actually perform? Am I obligated to pay for services rendered without my consent?
Thank you – Michelle
Comment by Dr. Hall,
Sounds to me like you have a valid complaint. Frankly, the fees sound outrageous. I would tell him that if he doesn’t make it right with you, you’ll take your complaint to the dental board. And, of course, you always have online reviews. Small claims court could also be an option.
So I saw a dentist on an emergency tooth that had chipped off and ended up having to temp crowns on tooth 14 and 15. When the temp crowns were placed they were connected between the teeth, which in turn had ate away at the gums. When I went back they were terribly inflamed and the dentist stated that I would also need crown lengthening. I gave my gums time to fully heal, still with tissue hanging down in between the teeth from the temp crown. Long story short I got a 2nd opinion and other options not as pricey to treat. Now I am requesting a refund for the crowns that I paid for and never got but am getting grief from the dental office about a retraction on my insurance and the refund. Can they technically do this?
Response by Dr. Hall:
Trisha, I’m not sure I understand exactly what happened here, so I’m just going to give you some principles. You shouldn’t have to pay for crowns that you didn’t receive, at least not the full price, but it would be reasonable for them to get paid for preparing the teeth and, if they ordered the crowns from a lab, it would be fair for you to pay for the lab fee. However, if there was incompetence involved, that could color what would be fair.
If you switch dentists in the middle of getting crowns, the right way to do that is to have the second dentist contact the first and make an arrangement to have the crowns, if they are made, forwarded to the new office and they can work out between them who gets what portion of the full crown fee.
I don’t believe insurance will pay for a partially done crown. The crown has to be seated in your mouth before they will pay. But when I was in practice, I asked for the patient’s portion of the fee when I prepared the tooth because that’s when I became obligated for the vast majority of the work.
Anna Kay says
Anna Kay wrote about an experience at three separate locations of a large dental chain with several locations in the Houston area. The dentist at the third location started to question the work done at the first two locations, which spooked her, and she went to another dentist at a single-location practice who told her that much of her work would need to be re-done. See her full question and my response here: Bad Experience at a Chain Dental Practice.
Ron E says
I went to a dentist for tooth pain. The Dentist stated I had an infection below my three front teeth. He also said I needed them taken out and either implant or bridge. He said he would do the bridge and it would be $3800. To hold the appt, they stated I needed to put 1/2 down.
I am in a position where I just can’t do it right now. Can I ask for a refund of the deposit back?
– Ron E.
Response from Dr. Hall:
If you cancel the appointment in a timely manner, they will owe you that deposit back.
I apologize, after looking through my bank statements my time frames are way off. I got crown #1 in September 2019 and the second crown in January 2020 which is when they adjusted crown #1. I did complain about crown #1 from the start but was essentially told the sensitivity was normal after a new crown and that it would eventually settle down.
Thank you again, Dr. Hall!
Hello doctor, I had an implant done recently. And prior to that my doctor said the bone was ready for the implant but when I woke up from surgery he told me that the bone was poor but he still put the implant knowing that. . . .
(Read the rest of this comment and Dr. Hall’s answer here:
Dental Implant Placed with Poor Bone Density.)
Hello Dr. Hall. I wanted to inquire about negligence aspect of your profession and why I would like a refund.
(See Irina’s complete story and Dr. Hall’s answer here: I keep needing root canals)
Tammy Fedorow says
I’m amazed that this last dentist that made my dentures thinks that he deserves to keep my money because he had to pay someone to make them. First he told me he could stretch them so they would fit but I had to pay more money I was desperate so I paid it but they came back even worse. Then when I asked for a full refund he wanted the dentures back that I really had no problem with. I got back the 800 I paid for the stretching and he paid my insurance company back but as for me I am paying. I’m on disability so my money isn’t to be wasted so he just has no consensus about that.
– Tammy Fedorow