Getting more for your money in the most unexpected place


I often get on my soap-box about bad customer service. I also preach (sorry) that you should all expect more for your money, be it shopping online or grabbing the weekly groceries. But I have to admit, even I thought this one was out of my out of my grasp. I’m referring to my recent trip to, wait for it, the dentist.

I am admittedly no fan of dentists. I’m allergic to pain and suffering, and they’re usually not in short supply at the tooth doctor. My last visit was over a year ago because of a completely rotten experience. I had to wait forever to see someone, I was flat-out insulted, my mouth was cut to shreds from the x-rays and I was then told I needed over $4000 worth of work. I declined (I later found out it was unnecessary work anyway), I came home in a sulk and my wife said she’d find us a better dentist. It took her a while.

Then, a few months ago, she said she had found our dentist. I was skeptical to say the least, but she was so happy that I had to admit, I was curious. After her appointment she received a thank you card from the office. Then, a $10 gift card to Jamba Juice. And she also came home with a state-of-the-art power toothbrush that she paid way less than retail for.

Value for money, friendly customer service, thank you cards, gifts. Could this be right? Aren’t we supposed to loathe the dentist? Well, I had my first appointment on Wednesday and I was genuinely taken aback.

When I arrived, I was greeted by a warm smile from the receptionist and she said “Hi Paul, how are you today?” She knew my name. No cold stare, no “where’s your insurance card?” just a genuine expression of being pleased to see me.

I was ushered to a chair, offered a cold drink and I filled out my paperwork. Then I went into the dreaded dentist’s chair where one of three people that day got to work. First, I had my x-rays taken. The technician was gentle and concerned for my well-being. After that, she asked if I would like moulds made of my teeth for whitening. I wasn’t so sure, until she said “it’s free…and so is the whitening gel, for life.”

Once again, my perceptions were challenged, but I happily took my freebie because whitening procedures are really expensive. Then, a dental hygienist entered the room and spent over an hour cleaning my teeth, finishing by massaging my gums and jaw. When I saw my dentist I was happy and content, and he used the latest laser equipment to detect cavities. I had some, but I really didn’t care at this point. I had been treated so well the news was minor.

I’m having my fillings done in a week. But I’m not bothered. In fact, I’m genuinely fine with going back. I can bring my favorite movie to watch, or I can choose from a wide selection in the office. And as my wife can already attest to, I won’t feel a thing.

Why is this story important? Because it shows that some people can actually get it right. They make you feel like more than just a number, they volunteer to give you genuinely expensive services for free, they even know your name when you walk in the door. It is something sadly missing from this world of large corporations. And I for one am loving this breath of fresh air. If you're not getting this kind of service from your dentist, doctor, optometrist, vet or anything else, maybe you should look around.

By the way, if anyone lives in Colorado the practice is called Cherokee Trail Dental Care and they can be reached at (303) 457 5288. They are filling up with patients fast, which is hardly surprising. It’s not a paid endorsement, they don’t even know I’m writing this article. But I think what goes around comes around, and that works for good deeds as well as bad. I advise anyone who runs a business, large or small, to pay close attention to this small practice with big ideas. It is without a doubt my best customer experience this year, if not this decade.  

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Guest's picture

Sometimes you just don't realize how bad something is until you make a change. My doctor was great, but I finally got fed up with his office staff, and after wanting to switch for a year, I finally did. I couldn't believe the difference! I also had to change pediatricians last year, though not by choice (my son's doctor died), and was please to find a practice that was just as great (and in some areas, better) than the old one. In both cases, I asked about a million people who they would recommend, and why. I paid particular attention to the recommendations of people who said they were treated like a friend instead of a Co-Pay or insurance claim. I also specifically asked about Appointment Time Intengrity (getting you in at your appointment time, and not making you wait forever). Thank you for your article, and I couldn't agree more that you shouldn't settle for rotten service anywhere!

Paul Michael's picture

You are right. No-one should be treated like a co-pay, but that's often how we all feel.

Guest's picture

I love my dentist! Not the pain, of course--I have terrible teeth--but the staff is wonderful. I got some great news in a call my last cleaning visit, and my dentist and hygenist were both genuinely happy for me.

Guest's picture

Paul Michael is absolutely right. I remember when I was younger, and a receptionist barked at my dad because he accidentally grabbed my sisters insurance card instead of mine. Until I was about 16, I was TERRIFIED of going to the doctors/dentist/cardiologist because I felt like I "wasn't wanted".

Guest's picture

I live in Aurora so I'm very excited to hear that you've found a good dentist in the neighborhood. I've tried two other dentists near hear in the past couple years and hated both of them. Now the challenge will be determining whether they accept my crappy dental insurance. Were you able to see them with your insurance?

Thanks for the tip!

Guest's picture
Debbie M

I laughed aloud at this sentence: " I was skeptical to say the least, but she was so happy that I had to admit, I was curious."

To the guest who made comment #5, if your insurance is that crappy, it may be fine to just go to a dentist that is not on your insurance. It may not cost much more, especially if you are able to get a discount for paying cash the same day. Plus if you are motivated to go regularly, things will be more likely to be fixed while it's still relatively cheap.

Paul Michael's picture

and they accepted it completely. I think my insurance covered 70% off all the dental fees, a filling worked out at around $40 out of pocket for me.

As a customer, I have a card that gives you some extra money off your first visit. Let me know your address (through the contact us section) and I'll mail you the card.

Thanks for reading, and I hope your visit is as good as mine was.

Guest's picture

I go to Dr. Burchfield on 20th St in Golden, CO. (Even though I now live in Pittsburgh, I'll still go back to see him above all other dentists.) I have never liked going to the dentist; Dr. Burchfield makes it not only tolerable, but even slightly pleasant.

The main reason I like him so much is that he's fast. He cleans my teeth in something like two minutes flat, and he never talks to me while he does it. (To himself, sure, but never to me.) Oh, and he knows I'm really sensitive to pain, so if I need Novocaine for cavity work, he'll give it to me first, then clean my teeth, then fill the cavities. Plus he even takes my Pittsburgh-based insurance.

He's great.

Guest's picture

I walked out of my dentist's office last month because he left me sitting there for 45 minutes without acknowledging me. He did, however, have 10 minutes of that time to spend consulting with his electrician about ceiling fans. I was sitting in plain view, but he never said a word to me. Two members of his staff apologized for him (hinting that he does this a lot).

That lousy dentist lost me and my husband as customers. And we're decent customers, too. We have good insurance and always pay on time. Well, not anymore.

I don't even mind that I have to look for a new dentist. Anyone's better than that arrogant jerk.

Guest's picture

When I read this post I thought about what I had been through in the past couple of years. Last year my dentist found that I had 3 cracked teeth and it was unbelievably stressful to have 4 caps put on for me. I spent about $3k last year on my well cared for mouth. This year we moved to another state and I found a dentist close to our home listed by our insurance company. I called her and got in within a week.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered she is a one-woman show. She spent a very long time cleaning my teeth and I thought she did a great job. The x-rays were slightly painful with all that crap in my mouth but my mouth is small and it always hurts. I dealt with it.

The crazy part came to light when I went to pay. I wrote a check because she didn't accept debit cards (isn't this 2007?). I looked around behind the desk and everything seemed to be from another era. No receptionist, very old phone, very old answering machine and piles of yellowed paper she was using. It struck me as totally bizarre but okay, so she is thrifty. This will hold down the cost. Right? Won't it? WRONG! She is more expensive than most anyone in town. AND she didn't give me a receipt for services rendered. WHAT? She couldn't because she had only triplicate and she needed all 3 copies. She couldn't copy it because she didn't have a copier!!!!!! I requested that she mail me one and I never got it.

The second appointment rolls around. It is for a deep cleaning because last year they didn't do a good job and I get to pay the big bucks for it this year. I got one very old filling replaced. When I got the anesthesia for the filling I told her I am highly resistant to the stuff and I usually get several shots before I am numb. She shot me okay. She is so good at what she does that she ON PURPOSE hit the exact nerve that went to that side of my face. It was like a bolt of lightening in my tongue and I almost came off the chair. CRAZY had done this, knew it would work the first time and didn't bother to ask me or warn me about it. I'd have sooner had the usual 4 shots to be numbed up.

She did beautiful work and she is probably the best dentist I've ever been to in that way but she is weird, bizarre and comes across as crazy. She is also more expensive and doesn't give out receipts. She bills via telephone calls and charges you $18 for a written statement that is typed up on a manual typewriter. So, now the question is do I change dentists AGAIN?

I mean she did find the cause of why all my teeth are cracking and gave me the solution which is working...a mouth guard. I do have way less headaches. I have about 2 more months to ponder this and then it will be time for another cleaning.

Paul, I am indeed jealous!

Guest's picture

I work with a guy whose dad is a dentist, and this is a direct quote from him: "Most dentists are crooks." He says half the time when he looks at a new patient's dental records, and then looks into their mouth, what's actually in there is nothing like what the record says has been done.
Moral: ALWAYS get a second opinion before shelling out thousands for expensive (and likely unnecessary) dental work. Shop around; there are good dentists out there, but you have to be willing to put in the effort to find the right one, as with anything else.

Guest's picture

The last time I went to a dentist, he said I needed $6000 of work. I didn't even have a toothache! They grilled me like I was in a timeshare selling session. I think the dentist just got back from a marketing seminar.

Anyway, I went to another dentist and the work was far different and cost be about $1000 total.

If he ever leaves or dies, I'm in hot water.

Is there any way, other than trial and error, that you can find a decent dentist? One who will not just rip you off?