Service or Commodity

By Mac Lee
Jan. 2, 2018 at 3:45 p.m.

Mac Lee

Mac Lee   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

The purpose of this article is to help readers find the right dentist who fits their needs. I feel compelled to write this because dentistry is changing so fast, and the public needs to be aware of what their choices are.

Going to the doctor is different than going to the dentist. Just saying "dental visit" creates anxiety in some.

If this anxiety is not noticed and respected, people put dentistry on hold until there is pain. MD's ask questions, write on their iPads and write prescriptions. If someone has dental problems like decay, infection or broken teeth, dentists have to physically get in the mouth and do something versus prescribing medicine. The medical and dental profession are worlds apart.

Dental work is not only hard on the patient, it's tough for dentist and team alike, especially if done correctly. Correctly meaning the patient is not hurt, their special needs are being met, they are being respected and of course, after the work is done, the patient is happy and satisfied.

Working in the mouth, one of the most sensitive areas of the body, is not like working on a car engine. Dentistry is a high-tech, high-touch service industry, and in my opinion, it is being threatened by an unstoppable change in business models.

Like medicine, dentistry is being transformed from the traditional cottage industry into corporate conglomerates; big business has found and has invaded the dental profession.

There are now dental chains that have 500 to 700 offices under their control. New graduates with huge education debts are starting their career by working for dental chains because they can't afford to buy their own practice. They work as associates and usually get paid a salary plus a percentage of what they produce. As a rule, associates have no ownership and are considered employees.

Insurance companies are the fuel driving this new business model. Big business understands it is easier and more profitable to sell a little bit to a millions of people. Major, multibillion-dollar insurance companies make contracts with multibillion-dollar companies that, collectively, have millions of employees, the majority of which have some kind of health benefits. From a health provider's point of view, it's more about business than it is about health.

In order to cut costs, the insurance companies make legal binding contracts with dentists who are willing to take some serious discounts on all services. Once the dental office or organization is "on the plan," their place of business becomes known to the employees who are also on the plan. For solo dentists and dental chains, it is a way to market their business by attracting new and retaining existing patients.

This marketing comes at a very high price. It averages from 30 to 40 percent discount on all services. Loss of income has to be overcome by seeing more patients, doing more dentistry, cutting expenses or suffering a huge cut in pay, etc. Cutting expenses means using cheaper material, cheaper labs, etc.

Ironically, in order to handle the insurance transactions, they have to hire more people, which increases their overhead with little to no return. It is a given they will stay busy but not necessarily profitable. Cutting anyone's pay by 40 percent creates stress no matter the job or profession.

The more one understands this new trend, the better decisions they can make for their oral health needs. The more open and honest you are with your dentist about this new trend, the better you will be served. Now that third parties are paying a part of the patients' bills, the dialogue is, "Hey Doc, all I want is what the insurance will pay" or "I know insurance will help pay, but I don't want it to get in the way of getting what is best for me." The choice is yours and yours alone.

Integrity is not based on how much someone gets paid. Dentists who get paid high fees can deliver subpar dentistry as can the one who get paid pennies on the dollar. Like everything else, it is up to you to do your research to find the best dentist for your individual needs.

To learn more about Dr Mac Lee and Joleen Jackson go to

Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is an international speaker and trainer to dentists. He is dedicated to educate the public about dental disease. To learn more about dentistry, visit or call 361-782-7191.



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