Aspen Dental: Your Well Being doesn’t Matter, but the Numbers do

First off, I understand that not every Aspen Dental is the same. I will only speak upon what I personally experienced in two specific Aspen Dental offices. This is the truth in my heart. With that being said, I will not shut up and ignore the things that I saw and witnessed. I’ve watched you take advantage of patients and push things on them that were unnecessary. When you figured out that I was a threat to the corporation because I was not going to cover up your wrong doings, you pushed me out the door and left me no other moral decision other than to quit.

From an employee standpoint, I found it necessary to raise awareness about what I experienced at Aspen Dental. Every Aspen is different, and I won’t say that they’re all bad. With that being said, Aspen Dental is a corporation, and a corporation is there to make money. At the end of the day, all that matters are the numbers.

So, what’s so bad about it? Well, the people that you’re answering to graduated with their degree in business. They know numbers, but they know nothing about what is happening clinically. To put this into perspective, imagine you bought a dental practice, but you’re not a dentist and you know nothing about dentistry. So you ask the dentist that works for you, (Why aren’t you filling any cavities? Why aren’t you doing root canals and crowns?) The dentist will tell you that he hasn’t found decay, and hasn’t found teeth to root canal. As the owner of the business, you don’t understand why, you just know you’re losing money. So your response as a business owner is “Find some decay.”

We constantly had meetings about raising production. First off, I’m a dental assistant. I don’t control our production, I don’t need to see the numbers, and I have no power over changing them – Other than treating patients well, which is what I do regardless of numbers. I don’t control whether or not the doctor starts a procedure on the same day, I don’t control how many cleanings the hygienist does. These are not discussions that should’ve been had with me. As much as I discussed my displeasure with my superiors, including the Director of Aspen, they ignored me. They told me things would change, and then they bought me lunch. Thanks.

Two things bothered me a lot. The first one was negligence. It was quite common for the acting dentist I worked with to extract the wrong tooth by accident. I knew exactly what was going on, he wasn’t paying attention. It’s an insult to every good doctor out there; because even though mistakes are made, even by doctors, it was consistent. Not only was it consistent, but he would lie to the patient. When I confronted him about it, he asked me, “What degree do you have in dentistry to challenge my diagnosis and authority?” I don’t have one. I have a degree in life and how to treat people. How do I know what he did was wrong? Very simple.

One time he pulled the wrong tooth on a patient, a tooth that was meant to act as an anchor for a partial denture. How do I know he pulled the wrong tooth? Well, first off, he created the treatment plan to keep that tooth. Second, the denture was made with an open space where that tooth would clamp to. Third, he did this all the time. So after extracting the wrong tooth, this is what he told the patient. (One of several occasions.”)

“Hey man, I just wanted to let you know that I said we were going to keep that tooth, but upon further clinical observation it can’t be saved. I wanted to save you a trip back here and take it out now, rather than making you drive all the way back here just to have another tooth out.”
The patient replied, “Thank you so much doctor. I appreciate everything you’re doing for me and extracting the tooth now so I don’t have to come back later.”
The doctor smiled and replied “No problem, I’m here to help.”
Never has my heart sunk so deep into my stomach. I went in his office and confronted him. He said “who are you to argue my diagnosis and practice?” Fair question.

Let me put it to you this way. Say you went to the dentist and they were planning on pulling a tooth on you. You were completely awake, not sedated, and fully alert. Instead of the dentist stopping what he was doing, and pulling you aside to say “Hey (whoever), upon further examination I don’t believe we can save this tooth either. I would advise that we extract it” – He just pulled it, and told you after. Surprise. “I did you a favor.”
I don’t need a degree in dentistry to know that is not good practice.

Oh, let’s not forget the billing issues. Yes, the wonderful billing issues that resulted in scamming patients out of their money. So basically, to give you an example, the doctor treatment planned every extraction as a “surgical extraction.” This means that the tooth came out in more than one piece, and is more expensive. The other code for insurance would be a “simple extraction.” The tooth came out in one piece, and it’s less expensive. Now it’s common practice to treatment plan a surgical extraction if you think you might have trouble with the tooth. That way, if it does come out in one piece as a “simple” extraction, you can refund the patient their money, rather than having to tell them there is an additional cost. The problem is when the dentist conveniently forgot to tell the office manager that a surgical extraction was actually a simple extraction. I know, you guys must not make enough money as it is.

I saw assistants pull certain tools out of the sterilizer early to get them for the doctor, because the office was not equipped with enough tools. UNSTERILE instruments. These assistants listened to the doctor, were afraid of being yelled at, and afraid of losing their jobs. So they did it. I didn’t care about my job anymore at that point, because I no longer took pride in what I was doing. No unsterile instrument entered a patients’ mouth in front of me. Well, Aspen didnt like this. Now the patient had to wait, or reschedule. Now the numbers are hurt. So I was pulled aside by my office managers and people at the top of the food chain so to speak, and I was “disciplined.” These people had no clinical experience and all they understood was that the doctor didn’t have what he needed, and now they made less money. Money was all that mattered. All that mattered to me was that the patient was treated with the highest quality care I could provide as an assistant. That means making sure their instruments were sterile. But they didn’t give a shit about those low income patients. As long as the money was in the bank, nothing else mattered. At some point, somebody affiliated with Aspen told me “It was best for me to keep my mouth shut.”

When I attempted to express my concern for patients to the higher powers at Aspen, including the Director of Aspen, I was ignored and told to “do my job as an assistant.” There was a “see no evil, hear no evil” mentality from the top. This is why I am more upset with Aspen than the acting dentist. They did nothing about the issues that I was bringing to their attention when I was employed.

I needed my job, but not at the expense of my guilty conscience at night. So I quit. I never said anything about any of these experiences and I moved on. I won’t say every Aspen Dental is the same, I’m just telling you what I experienced. In the grand scheme of things, they are there to make money. This doesn’t mean every office is the same – I’m just saying, you won’t find me there. I will not bite my tongue any longer. This information is here, and it will be here regardless of whether you liked it or not. You see numbers. I saw you play people. I saw things that could potentially directly have a negative affect on a patients’ health. You took an oath when you became a doctor to do no harm. Fuck you. I know this may sound exaggerated, but these are serious allegations. Allegations that a multi-billion dollar company will not be happy that I’m making. In the court of law, their allegations. To me, they are facts. I will always speak my mind.

There you go. It’s all out there on the table, and I don’t know what will come of it. But I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer. You have hurt patients and done wrong by them. You saw numbers, I saw human beings.

One day you will be held accountable.

Choose Wisely


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