Dental patients race the clock to use expiring benefits

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on December 27, 2010 at 10:19 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 28 at 12:06 PM

DALLAS — The New Year beckons; 2010 is almost over.

And that's got people rushing... to the dentist?!

That's right.

Dental offices are busy places at the end of the year as people try to use up their medical benefits before they expire.

Dr. Field Harrison, the owner of Mint Dentistry in Dallas, is a stylish young dentist on the move. And he already knows better than to schedule a vacation in December.

"As far as workload is concerned, we're almost twice as busy as we ever have been on any other month," he said.

For patients with dental insurance, January 1 is the day that any unused dental benefits go away. So instead of losing what they've already paid for, many patients make that last-minute call asking: "Can you fit me in?"

"The way the insurance works, I had to get a cleaning in before the end of the year," said patient Michael Cremer.

And for patients who need a costly procedure, there's even more incentive to fit in a visit to the dentist.

Patients with insurance coverage typically are covered up to $1,500 worth of dental work each year. And an end-of-the-year visit is also a way to use up Health Savings Account dollars.

"It's beneficial for the patient to at least get all of the benefits they can from the insurance companies while they contribute," Dr. Harrison said. "That way they don't lose those benefits."

Harrison said most dentists work hard to fit patients in at the end of the year. It's good for the patients, and it's good for business.

"Being busy is what we want to be," Harrison said.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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