The Story of the Self-Diagnosing Dental Patient

A guy thinks dentists are con artists who tell you need a lot of dental work you really don’t and even though he has pretty decent insurance, it still won’t pay for much. So he goes in for his six-month cleaning and when they tell him it’s time for x-rays he agrees. When the dentist does an exam and looks at the x-rays she says, “The old filling on this tooth is cracked and decay has set in underneath. Because it’s such a large filling in the first place, we will need to do a crown instead to avoid cracking the tooth.” The guy, who was skeptical at the outset and knows that a filling will be covered by insurance but a crown will cost him hundreds out of pocket, replies, “No, I don’t need anything so fancy and complicated. I just need a simple cleaning. I’m not in any pain or experiencing any sensitivity. Thanks.” So the dentist reiterates her concerns and issues her cautions, but allows the patient to decide his own course of care and leave after a simple cleaning. The guy leaves feeling satisfied that he has paid nothing out of pocket and not been “taken for a ride” for something over and above the level of professional service he needed.

Cut ahead five and a half months later. It’s Saturday night on Labor Day weekend. The guy is at a BBQ and snacking on something when he feels his tooth crack. The tooth had thoroughly decayed and because it was left untreated, spread. Now the guy needs an emergency root canal. He is reluctant to admit it, but wishes he had listened to his dentist when she advised him to replace the old filling and repair the tooth with a new crown to avoid just this sort of result.

What would you choose if your dentist advised you to get a crown under these circumstances? Would you opt for a simple cleaning and wait and see or would you proceed with the treatment, deferring to her professional judgment and expertise? Would it change the equation for you if it were your children’s teeth rather than your own? Stay tuned for the next post where you can choose your own adventure story about a couple that tells their lawyer, “We just need a simple Will.”

*Thank you to Dr. Anderson & his wonderful staff (especially Alicia, Elaine, and Christine) for reviewing this dental fable for me! Dr. Jeffrey M. Anderson, DDS PC


About Danielle G. Van Ess

Danielle G. Van Ess is a Massachusetts (born and raised), experienced estate planning and small business attorney who helps her clients protect and preserve what matters most to them. To learn more, please visit: or call: 781-740-0848