Until the 1980s dentists were precluded from advertising. There were extreme limits to advertising put into place by the varying Dental Boards. It was seen as improper and beneath our profession to advertise. The phrase "putting a shingle on your door" was used, meaning that a small sign with the dentist's name would be hung outside their office. This was the extent of advertising in dentistry. Practices did not have "names" and corporations and non-dentists were prohibited from owning dental practices. All that changed in the mid-eighties. It was decided that advertising in dentistry would not be limited as long as certain guidelines of good business were followed. Alongside this, non-dentists were also allowed to own dental practices in some states, including Pennsylvania. The flood gates were opened, never to be shut again.
And therein lies the problem. Dentistry has become income focused. So much so that non-dentist businessmen are opening up shop. These facilities are usually staffed by dentists that have no real interest in the practice itself or the treatment of its patients. They are there for the paycheck. Dental franchises have also come to the surface. These franchises may be owned by a dentist, but rarely is that person found at that location or practicing on patients. Many times these types of dental practices will bring in independent specialists, such as oral surgeons, periodontists, and orthodontists. We've all seen the billboard ads for such practices, in fact I often see one right down the street touting braces for some unbelievable low monthly cost. The name on the sign is a dentist that owns many practice locations yet is not found in any of those locations and is not the one doing said orthodonture. It is easy to get sucked in to the fancy advertisements of these types of practices and just as easy to be disappointed by their impersonal and expensive care. We often hear the same sentiment of huge promises of great modern dental care, but they are usually unable to deliver on that promise. They can talk the talk but can't walk the walk.
These corporate dental offices usually adopt business models meant for non-medical sales, mainly scripting. Many times the staff has had extensive off-site training and exercises brought in by an outside consultant. I call it brain washing, they call it team building. This poses a problem when applied in the medical field since every patient needs to be seen as a unique individual, not a specific dollar sign. This can not happen in a scripted or franchised office since the office has a financial goal to meet with every patient. This means that you will not be able to get an appointment for a "simple cleaning" or even a "toothache," you can only get an appointment for a whole mouth evaluation including x-rays, photographs, study models, a treatment plan, and may even have your credit report ran. You will be brought back and presented with a whopper list of work you "need" to the limits, or exceeding limits, of your financial capacity. They are there to drain every penny possible from you, all with a smile!
Dentistry is supposed to be patient centered care, we are here to serve our patients as best as we can. When a patient enters our office with a specific problem then it is our job to address that problem. We will inform that patient of other work that needs to be done and how it should be done, but our priority is always to make our patients comfortable at the moment and hopefully be able to address their whole mouth needs when they are ready to move forward. My office emphasizes personal, compassionate care for all our patients. We offer payment plans and reduced-fee plans for patients without dental insurance and create individual treatment plans for each person depending on their need. Since we are a smaller more traditional office we are able to get to know our patients individually on a personal level.