Economic Facts your Dentist Doesn’t Want You to Know

Some Office Visit Schedules Linked to Insurance Payment

By D. Kellus Pruitt; DDS


Here is the link to an article written by Herb Denenberg titled: “Some Facts Your Dentist Doesn’t Want You to Know”.  In it, he shared with his readers some information about dentistry that is hard to find. I submitted the following comment.

Dear Herb Denenberg,

Yours was a great article, and as a dentist with 27 years in a comfortable practice and 32 years in an expensive marriage, I find your cost-saving points oh so painfully accurate. Nevertheless, I must honestly agree that not only can some patients safely go a year or more between check-ups (ouch!), but many don’t need bitewing x-rays every year either (Good thing neither my patients nor my wife read the stuff I write).

Of BiteWing X-Rays

Readers who are hopefully from places other than the east side of Fort Worth can easily understand that the more treatment and x-rays I recommend, the more money I make. I must honestly add that my devoted and trusting dental patients, like most Fort Worth dentists’ patients, are reliably willing to accept my recommendations for these kinds of procedures without questioning the need. Let me put it this way: Annual bitewings are an easy $56 sale, mostly because fee-for-service insurance pays for them at 100% anyway. (If an angry dentist should ask who told you that, it wasn’t me). That is why it should not be taken lightly my approval of the advice about dentistry published in the book “1,001 Things They Won’t Tell You.” And; they won’t, sometimes.

Ethics and EBD

True to ethics I learned at the University of Texas dental school, in San Antonio (UTHSC), in the last six months, my hygienists and I have been determining which patients are safe to go a year and a half without routine bitewing x-rays. They are commonly taken every year simply because it has always been that way, and that interval was adopted as the minimum time most insurers allow. As readers can see, not a hint of Evidence-Based Dentistry [EBD] was involved in that determination. It was just a 1950’s guess.

Extended Prophylactic Schedules 

This week we found four candidates in our practice for extended schedules. Our honesty will save these patients (their insurance companies) money by eliminating unnecessary care. And I really, really hate saving insurance companies money, on principle alone.

In My DefenseGnome

In my defense of continuing to maintain a large number of my patients on 6 month prophys and 12 month x-rays – and with the hope of restraining local dentists from throwing rocks through my windows – let me say up front that most people still need the old-school schedule in order to prevent disease. And, a few of the more fragile cases need x-rays and cleanings even more often than insurance allows.


My patients and I are fortunate that I can freely charge the prices I deem necessary in order to put my patients’ interests above my wife’s. Let’s face it. Ethics are invisible to dental patients and they are not free. Ethics are a precious courtesy that dentists who accept managed care insurance find themselves forced to eliminate because contracts prevent them from raising fees as the market demands. Managed care dentistry is dentistry by the lowest bidder with no quality control. I only wish that someone would have pointed out that chunk of information in the book. Now, I’d better have my wife go ahead and start my car in the morning when she grabs the paper.


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