My wife and I recently visited the Aspen Dental in Stow, Ohio. It was a first visit for both of us, and we had very similar experiences. We have dental insurance, which covers X-rays and cleanings at 100%, and other necessary services (fillings, fluoride for children, etc.) at 80%.
The staff were friendly, and we did not have to wait too long in the waiting room (15-20 minutes).
The Aspen we visited is fairly new, and their equipment and office are clean, modern, and well-kept. The X-ray machine feeds directly into a computer, which gives instant results for the staff to review. At your initial visit, they perform X-rays and an oral exam. You have to go back for the cleaning.
The dentist was very young (probably not over 27) but was friendly and seemed knowledgeable. After she examined my teeth, she said they would be doing a VisaLite oral cancer screening. I was aware that they recommended this service, as my wife had been to the office a few weeks prior to my visit. I also knew that my dental insurance did not cover VisaLite screenings, and that it is not universally recognized as effective.
My research had uncovered another, more disturbing issue. While most places charge around $50 for the screening (see, e.g., http://www.wzzm13.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=82068), Aspen told my wife that her share of the cost would be nearly $400! After initially agreeing to the screening, my wife declined it (they were going to do it at a follow-up visit).
What surprised me when I went to Aspen was that the dentist did not "recommend" the screening to me: she simply stated that they would be doing it. I told her I did not want it, at which point her demeanor changed from friendly to almost hostile. "Well," she said, "I'm telling you that you need to have it." When I still declined, she said, "Then you'll have to sign a waiver stating that you refused it and that we won't be responsible if you have oral cancer." As I lawyer, I was having none of that, and I told her I wouldn't sign anything. She made some notes in my file and left, and that was the last I saw of her.
When I went to check out and schedule my cleaning, the business manager had prepared an estimate for me, which included the VisaLite screening and a fluoride treatment (which I had also declined). She reran the estimate, and even though I didn't have any cavities, I somehow still ended up paying $62, which they said was because my teeth needed an "extra-deep cleaning".
On my return visit, I reluctantly paid the $62 and went in for the cleaning. The technician poked around in my mouth for a few minutes, then announced that I needed to have antibiotics placed in my gums -- to the tune of $270, none of which was covered by insurance! I told her I wasn't going to have that done. She tried to stress the importance of it at first, but when she realized I wasn't giving in, she said, "That's OK. You can get a Water Pik, which will do basically the same thing."
Needless to say, my next appointment for a cleaning and check up will not be at Aspen Dental.