“But What About My Free Cleaning?”

Patients come in all the time and ask about their “free cleaning”. Their insurance company has informed them that they have a benefit that allows them to get two “free” cleanings a year. Unfortunately, many of the patients I see are not candidates for a “free” cleaning.

In the dental world, we call this type of cleaning a prophylaxis. It’s performed on people with healthy gum tissue. Many people suffer from bleeding gums, or gingivitis while others have more severe periodontal disease. All of my patients receive a thorough, comprehensive exam including an oral cancer screening, periodontal charting, and full series for dental x-rays. This helps me to determine the health of their mouth.

The type of cleaning a person should have is always based on the condition of a patient’s mouth. A person with gingivitis or periodontal disease is not a candidate for a prophylaxis. They require more thorough treatment to clean all of the surfaces of their teeth and to address the underlying disease that has caused these conditions to happen. If a prophylaxis is done, I know that some areas are not being cleaned and that their gums will not have a chance to completely heal.

I try to be very clear with my patients about the health of their mouth and what I am recommending. Patients are sometimes angry that they are not getting what their insurance company has told them they have for benefits. I try and explain that their teeth and gums are unaware of what their benefits are. I make recommendations based on health, not what their insurance company is offering them for coverage.

I will ask my patients, “If you had a heart condition and went to see a cardiologist, would you ask him to only examine half of your heart? If you had to pay a copay for them to look at your whole heart would you pay it? Or would you have them only look at part of it because it was free? When put like that, patients tend to understand.

I hope my patients value the information I am giving them and appreciate that I am truly suggesting the treatment that is best for them.