Straight Talk About the Cost of Dentistry

Why is dentistry so expensive?

A regular dental patient complaint, although it is seldom discussed directly with their dentist, is the occasionally high cost of dental care. Patients writing for Internet review sites often discuss the pros and cons of a dental office based on its costs alone. Admittedly, some patients have even complained that the Sacramento Dentistry Group has recommended services that other dentists did not, as if our suggestion was based solely on maximizing profit.

Our dentists would like to take the time to address these issues and discuss two points:

  1. Why major dental service is comparatively expensive.
  2. The policy of the Sacramento Dentistry Group in regards to recommending treatments.

Why is Dentistry Expensive?

According to Evelyn Ireland, executive director of the National Association of Dental Plans, fewer than 5 percent of people with dental coverage hit their annual maximum.” — Slate Magazine

The reality is that the vast majority of our patients seldom experience high dental costs. Their annual treatment consists of regular examinations, teeth cleanings and x-rays. Occasionally they may require periodontal care to cure the initial signs of gum disease or a filling for a cavity. Their routine of regular oral hygiene keeps them in the 95 percent that do not max out their dental insurance benefits. (A typical insurance policy allows for $1500 in expenses per year.)

This fact reflects the viewpoint of the Canadian Dental Association (CDA). Note the answer of the CDA to the question “Why does dentistry cost so much?”

Dental services may seem expensive. In Canada, we don’t have to pay directly when we visit a doctor or hospital, so we may not realize the high cost of providing health services. Overhead costs are high for dentists. They have staff, equipment and other operating costs. The good news is that you can avoid costly dental treatment by brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly for dental exams. Regular dental exams cost money, but they are less expensive than fixing serious dental problems that stem from neglect.

In our neighbor to the north, all health care is provided by the government, so paying for dental work is a considerable shock to Canadian citizens used to paying nothing when they visit the doctor. The same can be said here in the United States, where medical insurance benefits are common, and soon to be more so due to the Affordable Care Act. Dental insurance lags far behind in providing coverage, mainly because it is considerably cheaper than medical coverage. Some observers also note that by not paying for larger dental bills, insurers are indirectly encouraging good oral hygiene. Years of experience lead us to agree.

As the CDA mentioned, overhead is considerable for a dental office. X-ray imaging devices can cost above six figures. Every treatment station features precision instruments that are scrupulously sanitized. Dental materials are extremely specialized so they can effectively endure the demands of chewing and the moist and constantly changing environment of the mouth. Staff members are highly trained, often at considerable expense to themselves. Education in dentistry is ongoing, with our dentists and hygienists regularly attending courses, classes and conferences to apply the best and most effective treatments for our patients. It is true that some dental offices forego these costs by offering simpler, less modern treatments and by limiting certain expenses. The Sacramento Dentistry Group believes that it is our responsibility to provide you with the best services available.

Why Does My Dentist Recommend Certain Treatments?

When you visit the dentist, it’s his or her role to make a treatment plan based on your oral health needs. Your needs may be different from what is covered by your dental plan. It is your right to decide whether or not to go ahead with any treatment.” — Canadian Dental Association

Due to tremendous advances in dentistry, for any given complication there are many treatment options. Some are much better than others. With improvements in quality and efficacy, however, there are naturally higher costs. For example, consider the situation of one patient, June Thomas, an editor at Slate Magazine.

My dentist presented the treatment options in a way that made it clear he understood my decision would be based on what I could afford and/or wished to pay.”

In her case, the options were to install implants, to install bridgework, or to leave a gap between her teeth after extraction. The best option is generally to install the implants, but it is also the most expensive. Some dentists, however, do not present their patients with all the options. They judge for themselves what they think their patient can afford and only suggest remedies that they assume are within the client’s budget.

The Sacramento Dentistry Group does not believe this is the right way to practice dentistry. It is our policy to let you decide what you can and cannot afford when it comes to your dental health. We offer our patients the same dental care we would offer to our family members — the best care available. You may not be able to afford the highest standard of treatment and in that case we can present less expensive options, because they do exist and they will also “get the job done.” Ultimately, we respect the choices you make. The bottom line is, we care about you!

How We Can Help

The Sacramento Dentistry Group is always willing to work with patients when it comes to meeting the costs of their dental care. We accept many insurance policies, many forms of credit and even offer in-house financing through Care Credit. We clearly explain your costs in advance of our procedures and do the legwork for you when it comes to calculating your insurance benefits. Our dentists believe that an informed and educated patient makes the best decisions when it comes to their own health care. We look forward to helping you decide what’s best for your mouth and your budget.

Sacramento Dentistry
1 Comment
  • Jessica (@squareduptweets)
    Posted at 17:28h, 21 November Reply

    Even when I have been “poorer than a church mouse” I somehow always scrambled to pay for dental care. My parents went without a new car their entire marriage, but paid for four kids to get braces. My Dad died with all his teeth and my Mom has all her teeth at 91 years old! I’d say that was worth giving up on some material comforts, because a nice healthy smile is worth the price.

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