Orthodontics: the 8th Circle of Hell

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, he describes of the 9 circles in which Hell is divided.  The 8th circle belongs to the crooks: thieves, the fraudulent, and hypocrites.  By way of a huge generalization, this is where I would put orthodontists.

My darling daughter is in braces– has been for just over a year–and wore an orthodontic appliance before the braces.  We are on our 3rd orthodontist due to the frequency of our military moves (twice in the last 4 years).  My words of advice: never switch orthodontists!  You might as well offer to pay 3 times the actual cost of the treatment.  Unlike dentistry, orthodontics are billed based on a contract price for the entire treatment plan rather than on a fee per procedure basis.  That contract amount is then broken down into front end costs (for diagnostic images and to put braces on), final costs (taking off the braces and fees for retainers), and finally the monthly fee (to cover regular adjustments) which is calculated based on estimated treatment time. 

After completing 11 out of 16 months of the estimated treatment time, we received orders and left the practice–not before paying 90% of the contract price due to the high front end costs and the convoluted calculus used to determine what we owed on “earned” or used treatment.

Now that we have reached our new duty station, we’ve consulted a new orthodontist to try to complete darling daughter’s treatment.  Big surprise: the estimated treatment time is longer than the other guy’s estimate.  The new doc “wants to be fair,” so he’s only going to charge us his own diagnostic fee, a monthly fee, and a whopper of a fee to take off the braces and follow-up with retainers.  By the time we are finished, my daughter’s beautiful smile will cost roughly $7500.

So which one is the bigger crook: the doc who gouged us at the beginning of the process or the one who is inflating his end costs while trying to be fair?  If you’re like me, you think they both belong in that 8th circle.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all about capitalism and trying to make a profit.  But I’ll bet both of these guys swear they “support our troops” and really “appreciate our military”.  Funny way of showing it.  Maybe the answer is a bigger orthodontics insurance benefit to compensate for what I’ll call the PCS Penalty you pay if you’re unfortunate enough to have to heed the call of duty during treatment.

The next time one of these doctors puts a “We Support Our Troops” sign in his window, or someone tells me how lucky I am to have free healthcare and such great dental insurance, I’ll ask them to show me their perfectly straight smile for a moment.  Then I may end up doing time in Dante’s 1st circle for violence against one’s neighbor.

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