I just came back from a dentist appointment.

I signed a paperwork that says two inlays and three onlays. When I was under local anesthesia for deep cleaning, my dentist told me that he/she found one more cavity and asked me if he/she can take that out without explaining in detail. I simply answered 'yes'.

When I came out, I noticed that the paperwork was changed to add $700. I asked about it and he/she told me that $700 is for the cavity he/she found during the procedure.

I was under the impression that he/she was simply taking out a little bit of cavity, but he/she decided that I need an extra inlay for the cavity he/she found.

Can a dentist perform a procedure without a written paperwork and charge a client?

  • $700 for a cavity, holy smokes. Last time I went to the dentist, 3 cost the equivalent of $70.
    – user5072
    Apr 6 '16 at 5:45
  • @stacey I think onlay ceramic costs more in general.
    – Moon
    Apr 7 '16 at 2:17

A written agreement is not required to form legally binding obligations.

The common law position is that you are bound by a contract to pay for the services rendered:

  1. The dentist asked if they could take out another cavity, with the reasonable expectation that you would pay a reasonable amount. (Offer)

  2. You agreed. (Acceptance)

  3. The dentist fulfilled their promise to remove the cavity. (Performance)

  4. You are now bound to pay a reasonable amount. If you do not, you will be in breach of the contract. However, whether you will be required to pay the entire amount will depend on whether or not $700 is deemed reasonable by a court, or by whatever statutes may govern healthcare in whichever jurisdiction you are in (at the time of writing you have not provided a jurisdiction). A court or statute may limit the amount you are required to pay.


You were not in the right state of mind during your deep cleaning: anesthesia affects the body in subtle, chemical ways. This is why you sign a contract up-front, before going into the procedure.

The dentist, who was in a geared-up state of mind, overstepped his/her bounds by performing extra work without presenting you with a cost estimate for extra work, should a cavity be found, of varying sizes, before the procedure took place. This dentist fills cavities daily, I imagine? It is unlikely this procedure or situation is novel in any way to the dentist? Then why did this professional not provide you with more expansive paperwork before the operation?

With these ideas in mind, please consider jimsug's answer.

  • 3
    It is generally held that local anesthetic does not alter a person's capacity to form contracts.
    – user6726
    Apr 6 '16 at 18:21
  • I was fully aware, just could not speak correctly.
    – Moon
    Apr 7 '16 at 2:17
  • 1) Local anaesthetic generally does not alter your capacity to enter into legal arrangements, 2) even if it were, a cost estimate is not binding and can be exceeded if the work requires it, 3) "paperwork" is not required to legally bind people, otherwise you'd need to sign something every single time you buy something from the corner shop. This answer is incredibly flawed.
    – jimsug
    Apr 7 '16 at 13:09
  • @jimsug: Your first point only applies generally; your second point is debatable; your third point is also debatable in the context of a medical procedure in which drugs are administered. Simply because making the case I propose requires more guff, does not make it more incorrect than your general answer.
    – House
    Apr 12 '16 at 16:46
  • Moon: what the community seems to be missing here is the opportunity for you to save quite a big deal of money, if you so choose. There is nothing immoral or unethical about my argument; quite the contrary. I hope you take what I've given you: don't be bullied into not speaking the truth.
    – House
    Apr 12 '16 at 16:54

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