Patient Refunds at Aspen Dental

If a patient in a traditional private practice has an issue with any of the work done, there is typically a face-to-face discussion with the dentist and/or the office manager. Since everybody already knows each other, it’s much easier to calmly & rationally discuss the issue, in order to come to an agreement that works for everybody. This is how you avoid litigation and hard feelings over money. Dentistry has a reputation for being emotional, so well-run offices are always ready to handle these situations before they escalate. It’s a practice-builder to do so.

At Aspen Dental, by the time a patient knows they’ve got problem, the dentist(s) may have already moved on, along with much of the office staff. The patient may have been lied to, in order to placate them in hopes the patient will just go away. All claims for refunds get kicked to corporate, in Syracuse, NY. Try getting them to understand your side. Talk about being held up! Their mission is corporate, which is to collect the money and limit refunds as much as possible. This too-often works unfairly against the patient. These are trained sharks on the other end, giving unhappy patients the run-around, along with every other dirty trick in their corporate playbook. If you don’t believe me, then by all means go ahead and trust Aspen Dental with your mouth’s needs.

Patients don’t want to be sitting in the chair, having to face problems they have avoided for so long. Pain has a way of making people see things differently, and it changes priorities. No one wants to live in pain, but too many do because they are afraid to face their fears, themselves, and the truth. Dentists tell their patients the truth, and do their best to help them. This has nothing to do with bank robbery, and is only equated to it by no-nothing CEO zombies, who think they know something about a profession, when (really) they are clueless. This commercial campaign betrays more money than brains by its creators and those who signed-off on it. It’s what rules under capitalism.

The “dentists” at Aspen Dental are mostly kids just out of school, with massive student loan debt. They are working to gain experience and pay bills, until something better comes along, so they can someday become real dentists. Just about anything in private practice is better than corporate dental [1]. I know this because I’ve now practiced locum tenens for 3+ years, after closing my private practice which served in Lake County, Fl for over 17 years. Notice, I said “served in Lake County,” because that’s what we did. It wasn’t about gouging patients with huge treatment plans to enrich myself personally.

It’s about listening to the patient and meeting their most-pressing needs first. Education and complete treatment planning often come later, especially for patients who haven’t been to a dental office in a long time. If they’ve recently been to Aspen Dental (or the like), they may be tapped out financially. That’s a set-back for the patient and for dentists trying to help their patients, while making a decent living. I’ve never heard a caring patient say they wanted their dentist to be financially strapped. That’s not the doctor you want extracting your teeth, or recommending their extraction.

Corporate chains like Aspen Dental count on dentists being fools, by not properly educating & treating their patients. When there’s enough industry “slippage” from the professional standard-of-care, then corporate can move in and wipe out a lot of practices. That’s what happened to the profession of dentistry. Also, the economic crash of 2008 was a huge boost to corporate dental. Thousands of practices have vanished, leaving a huge pool of available labor (young & old) for corporate to exploit. Only the most-profitable dentists, in the best locations, with the best skills, teams & equipment can stay above this fray. Eventually it starts to bite into even the top practices. When stupidity is allowed to run amok in dentistry, there are consequences all down the line.

Stuck in the elevator and “stuck with a big bill.” Get it? Huh… huh… huh? It’s funny…. really. Don’t think so…? What’s wrong with you?   Madison Avenue-meets-CIA with these psy-ops from Aspen Dental. Does any of this relax you, like it’s supposed to?

Crap like this in our faces is also why people are cutting out paid-for TV. As a consumer I really don’t need to see this, and I was only made aware when I read ADA News‘ lame response to all this [2]. This garbage presented by Aspen Dental devalues dentistry. It offends real dentists, along with their staff & patients– everywhere. But how can the ADA be critical, when Aspen Dental pays to advertise with them? This is how things have gotten so bad, and there is no relief for working dentists under capitalism. That’s another truth no one wants to face.

It’s really difficult to watch this next video, but I did it once out of professional obligation. Aspen Dental seems to be targeting a gay demographic here. I just feels icky, creepy & disgusting.  Can you believe they have an “extended cut” of this?

One last professional comment on this ill-conceived marketing campaign, is to notice how none of their commercials are set in an actual (or even simulated) Aspen Dental office. Carefully consider the reasons for that?

My professional advice to Aspen Dental: Close half your offices, before the next economic crash makes you close them all. Pay real dentists what they’re worth, and let them run their offices. Keep corporate management to a minimum. Stick with Danica for advertising, until you can present yourself honestly & competently as professionals.

Final thoughts: For me, it has always been about becoming the best dentist I could be. When you start in dentistry, you quickly learn that whatever direction you choose, it will be entirely yours. You must own it, good or bad, because people are going to hold you accountable. These people include patients, staff, vendors, and even loved ones. The dentist has to produce to satisfy all these people, otherwise it falls off the rails. It’s also why dentists must have malpractice insurance. Aspen Dental management, up to their CEO Bob Fontana, can’t obtain malpractice insurance, because they’re not qualified to treat patients. So why are they allowed to own dentists & dental offices?

When a provider is locked into private practice, especially as a sole practitioner (as I was), doctors don’t know what’s going on in other offices, much less across the industry. The ADA will not act in the interest of working dentists, as they are bought-and-paid-for by insurance and other corporate giants.  It is their job to actually deceive their dues-paying constituents. This lack of perspective is a weakness throughout the profession.

The doctor who can successfully manage a private practice until it’s time to sell/close, and also work in any other type of dental practice while keeping it profitable (& satisfying patients), is the most valuable dentist. They are the ones most-qualified for leadership, because they have seen & done it all, from all sides. Nothing fools them. They know the answers and aren’t afraid to share them, making them the rarest of birds. This is what corporate wants to keep in a cage.