Do dentists charge too much?
We often get questions regarding dental fees and the popular consensus is dentists overcharge. The average dental practice runs at around 15-20% profit, which means the $200 filling you just got earned the dentist around $40. So how can dental fees vary from practice to practice? The answer is there is a vast difference in what you are actually getting so it’s like asking – “how much does a red car cost?”
Make sure the treatment you get at one practice is the same as another. Don’t just go for the most expensive or the cheapest. Ask the questions—how long will you spend with the dentist? What are you actually paying for? Could it be that the dentist actually wants a new BMW?
Bite sits in the middle of the dental fee ladder. Our initial consultation including examination, which is a full hour with a dentist, costs $93.
There are more expensive and cheaper practices out there but make sure you are informed about what you’re getting before making your choice. Remember a cheap haircut will grow out but you will have your teeth for life.
You can easily find stories of dental work gone wrong. We know because every week people come to us to correct the unfortunate work that’s been done on the cheap elsewhere.
Comparing apples and oranges
So what should I look out for? What should I ask?
Saving money on a check-up that only lasts 15 minutes but doesn’t catch disease can be a costly mistake. Ask about the actual time you will spend with your dentist. You have around 28 teeth to check which takes time! Root canal treatment that promise to be done in one appointment (half the time = half the price!!) can actually mean a lower success rate and could lose your tooth.
Crowns, bridges and implants can be made cheaply leading to costly failures or permanent jaw joint damage. Find out where and who makes them. Are they actually a qualified dental technician? It seems ridiculous but legally anyone can make a crown out of any material for a tooth!
Cheap filling materials can shrink excessively, leak and fail prematurely. Fillings should last 8-10 years but the current insurance statistics in Australia show a three to five-year lifespan. Find out the name of the material and ‘Google it’. It’s your mouth that will become home to this material so find out if the practice uses a hygienist or tries to squeeze the clean into the exam time as well.
We’re confident you’ll choose Bite
Watch out for medical insurance companies—they love pushing you into their ‘Members Choice’ or ‘Preferred Provider’ schemes. You could argue there is a conflict of interest when the insurance company decides how much to spend on the materials that go in your mouth and what care you can receive.
Fundamentally medical insurance is taken so you have the right to choose. Exercise that right as you have paid for it. The Australian Dental Association has a checklist of insurance here, as does John Small Health Advisory here. They do a great job at finding out if you’re getting value for money from your insurance. We also like Members Own Health Funds which you can find out more about them here.
Bite Dental accepts all health funds and we don’t recommend or support any particular insurer. We do recommend you choose carefully and reassess every few years to see if a better deal exists.
Remember the insurers with large advertising budgets, multiple high profile stores and celebrity staff will have less money remaining for your rebate. Who actually pays for the naming rights for the Australian Tennis Open, summer series of cricket or the State of Origin?
One other thing is that often “Dr Smith Family Dentist” is actually owned by a large corporate company. Over 80 practices around Brisbane are like this. Again the focus is on shareholders and profits which can lead to corners being cut and your health missing out. Find out if your ‘family’ practice is actually owned by a family or a board of directors who set profit targets to be met.
What actually matters most is that your dental health is based on the relationship between you and your dentist. Find one you trust and like a good hairdresser – stick with them!
Deposits and cancellation
To keep our fees down we do have a deposit and cancellation policy. We require 48 hours’ notice to reschedule or cancel an appointment without occurring any extra fees. This policy is in place to allow us to offer the allocated time to another patient who may be on our cancellation or waiting list for an appointment. In the event that less than 48 hours’ notice is given to cancel an appointment, a $50 fee will be charged unless there are extenuating circumstances. Medical insurance does not cover cancelled appointments.
We do this as a cancelled appointment is a loss to three people:
- The patient who is delaying their treatment
- Another patient on the waiting list or who is in pain requiring an appointment
- The dentist and nurse who spent the morning preparing for the appointment