The cost of dentistry rises every year. With inflation in the health sector being almost double that in the general sector, the rise is often disproportionate.
Quite rightly, patients are questioning the cost of various dental treatment modalities, seeking prices by telephone and visiting more than one clinic to canvass their options.
In my practice we consult thousands of new patients each year and we encounter the same type of cost-related questions over and over again.
To address some of the misconceptions commonly held, we would like to offer pointers on what to look out for when you're comparing dental prices and options available to you.
1. Always compare apples with apples.
Dental Board–registered specialists in various dental fields usually restrict their practices to one area of expertise.
They have generally spent many additional years in postgraduate education, and almost all general dentists and the Australian Dental Association consider them to be the peak group to address complex treatments in their specialities.
2. Remember that background costs can vary greatly from clinician to clinician.
The most common background costs are as follows.
Laboratory fees – a porcelain crown or veneer fabricated for a patient can cost the dentist as little as $40 or up to $600. Dental laboratories vary enormously in price, depending on the country of origin of the restoration, the materials used, and (critically) the skill and experience levels of the technicians and ceramists.
3. Be aware of the factors determining a practice's fees.
Rent – although it is commonly thought that more centrally located practices are more expensive because of their rent, the reality is that, in most cases, a very small proportion (often less than 3-4%) of the running costs of a dental practice derives from accommodation.
Skilled labour – by contrast with rent, the great majority (more than 55-60%) of the running costs of a dental practice derives from skilled labour.
4. Travelling overseas for dental procedures
Dental tourism has been alive and well for decades.
Residents of developing countries leave home seeking higher quality dental care in the United States, Europe and Australia. In turn Americans, Europeans and Australians motivated by price are travelling to countries such as India, China and Thailand seeking dental treatment at substantially lower fees than those charged at home for seemingly comparable treatments.