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Since You Asked

The tooth hurts: Fee for dentist's time is legal A friend recently had to pay a fee because she missed a dentist appointment. The dentist refused to see her daughter during her next scheduled visit until my friend paid the &

36;20.

I understand that missed appointments cause problems for both doctors and other patients, but can doctors and dentists legally do this?

' Matt C., Medford

While it's not first and foremost on the minds of doctors and dentists, their time is money. Not only that, but they still have to pay staff members for their time.

Bill Zepp, executive director of the Oregon Dental Association, told us that it is perfectly legal to charge fees when patients skip appointments.

The way we would answer the question, if we were asked by a doctor, is that if you're going to charge a fee for a missed appointment, you need to charge all patients. You can't be selective in charging a fee, Zepp said.

We caution our members not to do anything prejudicial. But as long as you have a fee in your office for broken appointments, you're fine. You just need to apply it evenly, he added.

And if you're wondering about the dentist's refusal on the grounds that money was owed, we're reminded of the sign you often see in businesses: We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.

Send questions to Since You Asked, Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to