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Should/Can I switch providers mid-treatment?



Junior member
Sep 12, 2023
Nashville, TN
I've had a severe phobia since childhood. So much so, that until recently, I had not been to a dentist in dozens of years.
This visit started OK. I was obviously a wreck and explained my phobia to the x-ray tech and the dentist, & then the hygienist when she came in to do the cleaning. They were all very understanding and encouraging, and the hygienist was very obviously extra-careful and checked on me often, so for the first half, I was actually able to calm down quite a bit. I needed deep cleaning & a crown (surprisingly no cavities at all). They decided to do only half of my mouth (literally one side of my face), and I am supposed to go back for the rest. This first one included the cleaning and the temporary crown. As I said, they hygienist was great. However, when the dentist came in to actually work, the "nice guy" persona was gone. I know it sounds dramatic, but I truly felt like she was irritated with me or just didn't even like me. The cleaning had taken quite a while, so the numbing was wearing off and I could feel the drill. She numbed it again at the site - without warning (all of the others I knew were coming), and did not wait even a full minute before going back in with the drill. I knew it wouldn't be numb yet, and sure enough, it wasn't. Instead of waiting, she then proceeds, again without warning, to jam the needle into my back jaw. It hurt tremendously and I told her so and told her it felt like it "hit wrong." She didn't respond at all. With this one, she did wait about 10 minutes before proceeding, and I was numb finally. So numb, in fact, that I did not feel as she apparently burned the inside of my cheek with the drill. I found this later when I had a dime-sized blister come up that left me in awful pain when I talked or did anything with my mouth, and left me only able to eat liquids for a week. Additionally, the location of the last shot caused me what I assume is a type of lockjaw. It's been 20 days now, and I still cannot open my mouth fully, it hurts if I try and exercise it to loosen it up, and doing so also causes me a painful headache, so I'm basically just waiting it out at this point.
I am supposed to go back for the other side and for the permanent crown and I am terrified. I can't make myself do it - I also can't open my mouth fully, so that's at least giving me a reason to wait. As I type this, I'm in tears because just the idea scares me... terrifies me. I don't want to go back. I have severe gum disease from my neglect, I have to go back and I just don't know how to do it. I am incredibly non-confrontational, so I haven't spoken any of this to the office, and I don't want to. I truly don't want to return to the office and/or say anything to them at all; and you should know that if we're being honest, I very likely will not. What I want to do is just go somewhere else. I also feel like I was greatly over-charged, and/or charged incorrectly and I'm not sure how to even tell for sure. Anyway, can I go somewhere else? There is an office nearer to me that I should've chosen in the first place. Will my insurance refuse the change? Or will they charge me full price for the remaining work because the billing started elsewhere? My avoiding the dentist my whole life has made me completely ignorant on any of it from procedures to billing practices.
Thank you for listening and for any help y'all can provide.
Hi, first of all, congratulations for working up the courage to see a dentist after so many years, that must have taken you a lot of guts. I'm so sorry to hear that the dentist at the office you went to was so awful, I'm not surprised you don't want to go back (I wouldn't either).

I'm pretty ignorant of billing practices in the U.S. but maybe someone on your side of the pond will be able to help out... One thing to be aware of is that the permanent crown is usually made by an external lab, so you may have to end up paying twice for the crown (especially if you don't want any confrontation :(), and they're not cheap. Depending on your financial situation, this may or may not be worth it to you. But it's totally understandable that you'd rather start afresh with a dentist you like and trust, especially given the long-term nature of that relationship and the risk of being retraumatised yet another time.

Regarding the second part of the deep cleaning, the best idea might be to talk to your insurance company and ask how the billing would work?

You also said "There is an office nearer to me that I should've chosen in the first place" - have you had recommendations for one of the dentists there? If so, it would be a great idea to see if you could come in just to have a chat, and find out how they will ensure you're comfortable. We have some downloads here on this website which may also come in handy:

For the deep cleaning, it’s normally charged in units of times. If the first dentist already deep cleaned the first half, a second dentist shouldn’t need to clean that side again and would only charge for the time to clean the other half. For the insurance, as long as you didn’t reach the maximum number of units they allow, you should be good. However, that limit would apply even if you stay with the same dentist.

For the crown, it’s a bit more complicated. Did they already charged you for it? Did they make you sign an agreement or maybe even have a verbal agreement? As letsconnect mentions, there is usually a lab fee to produce the crown in an external lab and your dentist will have paid to have the crown produced. For the insurance, this is a bit more touchy. Normally a dentist should bill only service you have received. However, it seems that in the US they can charge the insurance for the lab fees, as long as they accompany it with a letter explaining the situation. In that case, insurance wouldn’t let you have the same work billed to them twice for the same tooth.