Question: Dr. B, I had a filling done recently on a bottom molar. After a couple of days I noticed that when biting on food, I felt a sharp pain sensation. I went back to the dentist and then she said I may need a root canal. I have already paid for the filling on the molar, should I be compensated for that cost because now I have to pay for a whole new procedure for a root canal. The filling for the bottom molar cost me around $200 and the root canal with crown is going to cost me around $1200. Should the $200 be credited towards my root canal since she didn’t perform the right procedure initially?
Answer: Aaron, This is a tough question to answer. There are two ways to look at it. First, many times it is best to start conservatively and do the filling first because if that is the solution, it’s way cheaper, simpler, and less involved than doing a root canal. But if the solution for the tooth was a root canal to begin with, then it makes sense for a credit to be given.
Teeth often give erroneous symptoms which can mislead the dentist, and event the patient. Many times it’s difficult to even locate the tooth that is symptomatic. Teeth can take up to 10 years to suffer pulpal death, and frequently it will not be clear what the status of the tooth is. It’s best to start off slowly and conservatively if unsure of the diagnosis. This may cost you more if you’re too conservative with treatment, but many times it will cost you less if the dentist and patient to do not overreact with treatment. If there was good reason to do the filling at the time, but now a root canal is needed, it may be fair to charge for the filling.
However, if the filling was not the correct treatment, get your 200 dollars back, and find another dentist. I always encourage patients to seek out a second opinion during these instances to help weed out the truth. If your dentist objects at this, this is a signal for you to switch dentists. A secure and confident dentist will encourage a second opinion as it serves to confirm his or her diagnosis and make the patient more confident.
Bottom line: Tomorrow, call a respected endodontist (root canal specialist), don’t mention names, stick to the facts, have him or her take an x-ray, and ask if your tooth needs a root canal and why. Chances are, you will find that the dentist responded appropriately at the time. My policy is that no treatment can proceed unless the patient is fully informed as to the reasons for planned treatment. The more informed a patient is, the greater the chance of a successful diagnosis.
Get that second opinion, then discuss the results with your dentist. This will resolve the issue and help get the tooth fixed once and for all and for a fair price.
Mark Burhenne DDS