“I felt like I was in the middle of a couple who was going through a bad divorce. The two dentists who owned the practice were obviously not happy with each other, and the staff seemed sad and tired. Plus, they kept cancelling my appointment for a cleaning at the last minute, and they seemed uninterested in rescheduling it,” said a co-worker, who had just (finally) managed to get a cleaning at her dentist’s office.
“I feel uncomfortable when I’m there, but I’ve been going to this dentist for a long time,” she continued. “I don’t know whether to give it a little more time – supposedly they are selling the practice and going their separate ways – or whether I need to dump my dentist now and find a new one.”
Everyone has the occasional bad day, but if you’ve noticed over your last few appointments that your dentist or the practice’s staff isn’t as responsive, professional or caring as they used to be, it may be time to start looking for another dentist.
Or perhaps your dentist and his/her staff has never been particularly warm and welcoming. But you keep returning to the office even because you’ve been going to this dentist forever and you don’t have the time to research other dental practices in your area. To that we say: you deserve the best quality dental care, and spending a little time searching for an excellent dentist in your area is well worth the effort. You’re much more likely to get your regular checkups if you’re comfortable with the dentist, your hygienist and the staff.
Perhaps you’re perfectly happy with your dentist and everyone who works in the practice, but you are switching your dental insurance plan to one that your dentist doesn’t accept. Or you’re moving out of the area. Or your dentist is retiring and turning over the practice to a dentist that you don’t know or would prefer not to work with. In these types of cases you can explain the issue to your dentist, and ask if he/she can recommend a dentist who meets your new needs. And you’ll want to request a copy of your dental records to take to the new dentist’s office.
If you have decided that you simply don’t like your dentist or members of the staff, you’re absolutely entitled to terminate the business relationship. While it may be tempting to simply vanish from the dentist’s practice, never to be seen again, you will need to obtain your dental records. You can make this request yourself, or you can have your new dentist’s office manager ask for your records to be sent to their office.
If you decide to handle it yourself, it’s likely that the dentist will want to know why you’ve opted not to get care from him/her any longer. You may want to share the reason, or you may want to simply obtain your records with no further discussion. How you handle this will likely be influenced by where you live – in a small town where you’re likely to see your dentist socially as well as professionally you may choose to discuss the matter in person with your dentist. In a more urban setting, you can just leave a voice mail, send an email, or have the new dentist’s staff obtain your records.
You are, under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal law, entitled to receive copies of your health information from your dentist (also your doctors and other care providers). Your dentist must provide you with your records even if you haven’t paid for your dental care, in part or in full. The dentist is permitted to charge you a reasonable fee for copying, mailing, or printing the records. Typically, the cost would be around $20.
You can also choose to simply move on without your records. Your new dentist will perform a checkup with x-rays at your first appointment, along with talking to you about any dental health issues you may have now or have had in the past.
You probably won’t want to spend a lot of time complaining about your old dentist to your new dentist. It’s worth mentioning if you had a bad experience at your previous dentist that has made you nervous about getting dental treatment now. Otherwise, there’s not much benefit in detailing the reasons why you chose to breakup with your dentist. No one wants to hear about past relationships in the very beginning of a new relationship.
The American Dental Association’s code states that each dentist has a “duty to respect the patient’s right to self-determination.” That means you get to choose whether to have a recommended treatment. Your right to decide doesn’t mean that your dentist has to be happy about your choice. He or she may work with you if you need to postpone a particular treatment due to costs. The dentist is under no obligation to continue treating you if he/she feels that your decisions are endangering your health.
Your dentist may also break up with you if you consistently don’t show up for appointments, are behind on your payment plan, have not been truthful about your medical history or current health status, or if you have been rude to the office staff or other patients, or disruptive to the practice’s ability to serve other patients.
If your dentist decides to breakup with you, he or she must give you notice and provide you with adequate time to find a new dentist. The timeframe is determined by state law, and is usually 30 days though it may differ depending on whether the dentist is a specialist or whether there are other dentists in your immediate area who are accepting patients.
You’ll likely get the notice by certified mail. The letter may explain why the dentist is terminating the relationship, and will state how long you have to find another dentist, and the fact that your dentist will be available to provide emergency care during the time you have been allotted to find another dentist.
Your dentist is not obliged to find another dentist for you, and will likely only refer you to the local dental society. The letter will also note that a copy of your dental records will be provided to you or to your new dentist, upon request.
If your dentist does not formally terminate your relationship as detailed above, you can – if you choose -file an abandonment charge with the local dental board.
Looking for a new dentist? We can help. Check our dentist search tool, or call 1-844-239-7927 and ask one of our team members which dental savings plans are accepted by dentists in your area.
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