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DIGGING DEEPER: Dental dilemma

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TUCSON - Former patients of a local dental practice say the office over-charged them, was aggressive and had poor chair-side manners.

"It's a matter of principle and trust," said former patient Carissa Sipp.

"I just felt like they were out to get my money," said Glen Meiners.

"Just awful. The worst experience I've ever had with dentistry," according to Lanae McDade.

We're not naming the practice because frankly, after speaking with its spokesperson, we think most of its problems are due to staff changes and computer issues. The practice apparently needs to improve and make changes, but we have no proof the mistakes were intentional.

Sipp was overcharged by $37.50 and told us, "$37.50 doesn't matter to me, but it could matter to somebody across the street who's having a hard month, got laid off, but they needed the procedure to get done."

Sipp says she paid $129 up-front for a filling in September. Later she alertly checked her insurance claim and found she was over-charged.

"The point is the fact that if they're doing this over and over," Sipp said. "This was not a very expensive procedure. And $37.50 was actually 27 percent of that procedure. So that's a huge amount. So if you're charging everybody 27 percent above, because they're just trusting you as a dentist, imagine how much money they're collecting from people."

Meiners said the practice gave him a hard sell to have a deep cleaning for $1000. He declined for health reasons but claims the practice kept trying to sell it. "They were very aggressive on that," Meiners said. I told them my doctor said I shouldn't' get a deep cleaning because I'm a Type 1 diabetic and they just ignored that. They said they'd worked with some Type 2 diabetics. That's not the same thing."

Ryan Edmonson is the executive director of the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners. Regarding Meiners' complaint, Edmonson said, "I would ask that that person file a complaint with this board so that we could open an investigation, maybe interview that dentist."

Former patient McDade said she paid the practice $1120 for two fillings and a crown, but her main complaint was that the treatment was rough and, in one instance, inappropriate. "At one, the hygienist leaned over and laid her body across mine to get a utensil from the other side of the chair, which is very inappropriate," McDade claimed.

Edmonson of the state board said, "I would say that it's not a violation of our standards but I would be concerned if somebody did that. You'd be like, 'Why can't you just get up and walk around?'"

The dental practice is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau. A BBB spokesperson says that's because it has a c+ rating and businesses need at least a B rating to be accredited.

As for Carissa Sipp, she says she called the practice 20 times since September trying to get the refund for her over-payment, but the office manager kept making excuses. The day after we called, Carissa got her money back.

She said, "So I really thank KVOA and you guys for doing that and making the effort to get our money back. It may seem small but it's so big for us and it's just such a relief. It's over."

If you have a complaint about your dentist or are looking for a new one, the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners has the information you need here.

Matthew Schwartz

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