I live a few hours from Ann Arbor, but the low-cost clinic in my area has a pretty bad reputation. I had heard better things about the University of Michigan dental clinic so I decided to try making the drive. Overall I’ve been pretty happy with my choice.
If I were to sum up the experience in a sentence it would be – the care is great, but it is a slow process.
When you start attending you will be assigned a dental student. That student will theoretically do all of your care unless you need advanced work such as a root canal or having a tooth pulled that is broken or something along those lines. In that case, you’ll have to be referred to a graduate student for the more advanced work, and your student will do the more common care like filling cavities.
The clinic schedules appointments in three hour blocks. They require that you have an initial exam, which takes the full three hours. They do not clean your teeth at this appointment. Instead they ask you about your health history, and do a quick look at your teeth to get a rough idea of how much care you will need. They also do x-rays which is the most time consuming because they do a picture of each tooth instead of just a few photos total like most dentists.
The second appointment is also a three hour block, and it’s usually a dental cleaning and potentially getting some work done. However, I started attending the clinic in the spring and after my first appointment, the student I was assigned to graduated. This meant that I had to start fresh with a new student and if that happens to you at any point, you have to have the initial “quick exam” appointment again, but you don’t have to have x-rays redone.
So my second appointment was essentially a repeat of the first which was very frustrating because it is about a 2.5 hour drive for me. However, seems how we did not have to repeat x-rays we had time left over and my student managed to do the cleaning that day as well. From there I was able to schedule a third appointment to have cavities filled. It is a full three hour block so you can get 2-3 teeth taken care of in a single appointment if you need to.
I was really happy with the fillings that I had done. They matched my natural tooth and were nice and smooth. However, my bigger issue was a tooth that I had a partial root canal on. When you have a root canal you are supposed to have a crown. I had the root canal done 5-6 years ago but I never had a crown placed on it. Based on my x-rays, there was concern that the root canal tooth may be infected again, which I didn’t even know was possible. The x-ray wasn’t clear if it was infected or not. I had to get referred to the endodontic (root canal) clinic to see a graduate student to see if it is in fact infected or not. If it is infected, I will need the root-canal treatment re-done, and then a crown added. If it’s not infected I can simply have the crown added.
This has been a difficult process. I was supposed to get a referral to the endo clinic about six weeks ago but they never called. I called them about three times, and they called back once but I missed the call. I contacted my dental student who said he would go try to set up an appointment for me, but I never heard back. So it took a few weeks just to get my appointment scheduled. Then they were only able to get me an appointment for about six weeks out. So, that has been a bit frustrating but my appointment is in about three weeks.
The benefits of attending a dental university clinic
The cost is low if you need work that isn’t covered by your insurance. Roughly 50% of what traditional dentists charge.
Appointments are long, so a lot of work can get done at each visit.
Care is carefully checked. I felt that I got very high quality care.
The downsides of attending a dental university clinic
You are seeing a student which may make some people uncomfortable.
The process is long. You may have to start over if your student leaves.
During appointments there are waiting periods while your students waits on their teacher to come check their work.
It can take a long time to get your first appointment.
Have you attended a university dental clinic? Was it worth it for you?