Tuesday, January 25, 2022


 Dear Readers,

Dr Lambert Greeff

          Everybody needs their teeth fixed at one stage or another, but is this how it should be done?

          At the end of last year I went to see Dr Lambert Greeff a Dentalwize dentist in Cape Town because I felt there was something wrong with a filling at the back of one of my front teeth. It was such a small problem that I saw him because being in Sun Valley he is conveniently close to where we live, whereas our regular dentist is a lot further away.

          He refilled the tooth, took six x-rays around my mouth and told me I needed eight more fillings and I also had a cracked tooth at the back. He then sent a quote in two parts to my medical aid. One headed “Estimated quote fillings” cost R5 570 and the other one “Estimated quote crown” was priced at R5 677.20 making a total of R11 247.20.

          My medical aid was clearly not happy with his x-rays and quote because it asked for “Clear radiographs showing the entire tooth (apex and crown) with surrounding tissue. Motivation (reason for treatment) related to the lower front teeth.”

          In an email I told Dr Greeff that I found it difficult to believe that I needed so much work done on my teeth because, while I might be old (88), I had always had very good teeth and I go to the dentist on a regular basis.

          I added that by chance I saw my GP about an unrelated matter shortly after I had seen him and I asked my doctor, “If you were told by a dentist that you needed 8 fillings and had a cracked tooth, but you did not feel anything wrong with your teeth, would you go ahead with the dental work you were told you needed?” He replied: “I would get another opinion”.

          I told Dr Greeff this is what I did. I went back to my regular dentist with copies of his x-rays and had six cavities filled. They were so small that I did not need a single anaesthetic injection. The dentist also said I did not have a “cracked tooth” but a chipped one at the back and that unless it was causing a problem, which it wasn’t, it could be left as it was. The total price for this treatment was R2 461.

“Dr Greeff,” I went on, “the only reasonable conclusion I believe anybody would come to based on my experience with you; what my medical aid had to say and the work done by the dentist I saw after you, would be that you were trying to take an old man’s medical aid for a very expensive ride. You were ignoring the fact I would have been responsible for any shortfall in my medical aid’s payment and I would also have had to put up with all the unnecessary treatment that included local anaesthetics and possibly making several visits to you.

“You might like to know that I am a former Sunday Times investigative journalist turned Private Eye (before I retired) who has had considerable experience investigating medical malpractice. One of my cases resulted in a book. So I don’t believe that the allegations I am making against you are without considerable substance.

“Please let me know if you feel my accusations are unjust.”

I heard nothing from Dr Greeff until I had sent a similar email to Dr Francois de Manielle, one of the two directors of Dentalwise that is described as a “family orientated” private practice with surgeries in Durbanville, Sun Valley and Protea Heights (both in Cape Town), Belville, Atlantis, Somerset West and Worcester in the Western Cape.

This was when Dr Greeff made the following startling admissions with my comments in brackets. “An estimate is just that, a guess on the extent of the treatment that might be required as discussed during the consultation. If for example I start with a treatment, like a filling , there may be factors  that change such as the size of the filling, use of different relevant materials, use for local anaesthetics, use of isolation dams, requirement for additional radiographs ect.”

He then highlighted the following in his email (the highlighting in the section above is mine): “Therefore we tend to overquote when seeking authorisation from the medical aid but only charge for the actual treatment once it is done. The charge amount is always less than or the same as the quote depending on the given clinical situation. In fact it has become common practice for me to do free/discounted treatment because I am passionate about giving the treatment my patients actually need instead of what their medical aid allows me to do. This in my opinion is the real topic that needs investigating”

This is what Dr de Manielle told me in his email reply to mine. “Thank you very much for your e-mail and the concerns that you shared with me. Any feedback of this nature helps us at Dentalwize to be proactive in our approach and to always be on the lookout as to how we can improve our business model.

“Dentalwize aims to supply high quality service to the general public at medical aid rates in order to make it an affordable option to everyone. Many practices nowadays charge well in excess of those tariffs and are not interested in helping the patient obtain authorisation from their medical aids, neither do they send the account electronically to the medical aid which leaves the member with a lot of paperwork and delay of payments.

“Your feedback allows me to do the necessary checks again and to be ever so watchful of the kind of impression it creates. We certainly strive as a Company to be meticulous in doing a proper consultation, not leaving anything to chance. Too many legal claims evolve around not discussing the full extend of the oral needs and the subsequent treatment proposed for fixing that. In saying that, I would like to remind myself that this should not lead to overtreatment which I honestly doubt would have been Dr Greeff’s intentions.

“I sincerely thank you for raising your concerns; this has given me the opportunity to address this matter not only with the Dentists in particular, but on a more comprehensive scale throughout our entire business.”



P.S. You know what us old codgers have to say about our teeth: “Fangs ain’t what they used to be” and that probably applies to dentistry as well. 








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