A few months ago I went to my regular dentist and had a cavity filled. It was a deep cavity and he warned me that sometimes a filling doesn’t work and I might have to come back for a root canal. I felt fine at first. But within about a week, I started having these weird sinus headache like pains around my nose/upper mouth area. It didn’t feel like it was related to my teeth and it was on both sides so I thought it really must be a sinus headache.
I was able to take Motrin which helped but over the next few weeks the pain started becoming more constant and the Motrin wasn’t helping as much. The pain had also moved from the sinus area but it was switching back and forth between my upper and lower teeth. I still couldn’t pinpoint any particular tooth though, but at this point, I felt it was probably dental pain. I made an appointment with my dentist but unfortunately, he couldn’t see me for about two weeks.
In the meantime, the pain became so severe that I could barely function. It was constant so I wasn’t getting any sleep either. As much as I love my dentist, I couldn’t wait for him to see me so I looked around and found a place called Aspen Dental that is only about an hour from where I live.
Aspen Dental is a huge company with over 600 clinics throughout the country. I had never been to a dental chain clinic but their website said they took emergencies and were open until 9:00 PM. So I drove out there at 5:00 PM begging someone to see me but they insisted they couldn’t until the next morning. I’m not sure why they say they take emergencies when they can turn you away like that (I showed up 4 hours before closing) but oh well.
I went back first thing in the morning and they got me in for an exam. If you are a new patient they will do the exam and x-rays for free so that is nice. But, and this is a big BUT, they basically only do that so they can get you in the clinic and try to make money off of you.
Aspen Dental Sales Pitches
While I was sitting there in overwhelming, excruciating pain they were trying to sell me some $135 toothbrush and trying to get me to come back in for special deep cleanings. Don’t get me wrong, I know the importance of preventative dental care, but instead of giving me a sales pitch while I’m about to pass out from pain maybe we could…I don’t know, address the issue of my pain?
They told me I have gingivitis which I find interesting, especially since I have specifically asked my regular dentist if I have it and he said no. (I asked him because for a while my gums would bleed when I brushed my teeth but it turns out it was a side effect of a medication I was on. As soon as I stopped the medication my gums were fine.)
The dentist seemed pretty nice and competent though. She took a look at my x-rays and said the tooth my regular dentist had done the filling on needed a root canal because the filling was irritating the nerve.
But before I could make an appointment to come back and get my tooth fixed, I was given a huge list of all their recommended treatments for me (which came to over $6,000) and they wanted me to sign up for some credit cards to help cover the expenses. Keep in mind, I was still in horrible pain at this point and just wanted to make my return appointment and go home. But they do everything they can to get every dime out of you.
Aspen Dental Care?
I went back and got my tooth taken care of and everything went well. So I can’t say I have any issue with the actual care I received. But I don’t like trying to get medical care and being given a bunch of sales pitches in the process. That was definitely a negative aspect of my experience.
If you look for reviews online they seem to be mixed. Some people are happy with their care but others say they received horrible care (like being convinced to have ALL their teeth pulled unnecessarily to get dentures) or that they were tricked into signing up for those credit cards. In fact, here’s an article from PBS Frontline that explains some of the problems with Aspen Dental in more detail. I highly recommend checking out that article if you are interested in visiting an Aspen Dental clinic.
I will say that if you are experiencing a dental emergency and can’t get to your regular dentist in a reasonable amount of time, then it probably can’t hurt to go to Aspen Dental. Obviously, that is what I did and it turned out okay. Just be aware that they will try to pressure you into buying treatments and products that you may not actually need. If you can withstand that kind of behavior you’ll probably be okay.