CONCERNS about costs deter Australians from visiting dentists and those who do often feel too disempowered to ask for a better deal, one industry professional says.
Dr David Hills said patients’ affordability concerns are magnified by variations in dentist bills for similar procedures. He wants more transparency to build trust and allow people to make educated choices. HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR MORTGAGE “Some dentists charge up to 100 per cent more for the same procedure,” he said. “There might be some shiny bells and whistles at the top end, but in many cases the treatment is exactly the same. “There are even cases where the same dentist working at two different locations will charge different prices for the same work … some of this comes down to the cost of rent and other operating expenses, but it means that consumers can and should be making informed decisions about which dentist they choose to see.” Dr Hills said patients often agree to have work carried out that a dentist suggests, without realising they have the right to ask for a quote so they can shop around. Common procedures that can be easily compared are crowns, bridges, implants, porcelain veneers and wisdom teeth extractions. “If you were to buy a 60 inch TV costing over $1000, you would always shop around and make sure you’re paying a fair price. Why (not) do the same when you might need to spend thousands on dental work?” Dr Hills said. “All procedures that a dentist will do are coded according to the Australian Dental Association schedule of dental services. So when you are comparing procedures you would use these codes to compare the cost of the exact same procedure at any dentist in Australia.”Dr Hills has launched online platform ineedadentist.com, where patients can go to find and compare independent dentists nearby that match their health fund and other unique needs. “What happens in your mouth is your decision,” Dr Hills said. “Ask questions, get quotes before proceeding with treatments and go to a dentist that gives you a good experience.” Australian Dental Association (ADA) president Dr Hugo Sachs agrees with patient empowerment but notes that dentistry work is hard to compare, based on price alone, because a second dentist won’t complete work based on the diagnosis and treatment plan of the first quoted dentist. “Shopping around doesn’t necessarily achieve much as individual diagnosis and treatment plans are needed,” he said. “The ADA has its own find a dentist option but they don’t compare on price. There are variations because there are different ways to do things.” Dr Sachs said dentistry is an industry that relies on word of mouth, so those who overcharge or provide a bad experience are often quickly found out. “Patients should find a dentist they trust and are happy with and get a treatment plan,” he said. “Cheap dentistry is not good and good dentistry is not cheap and if you are arguing based on price, it’s a case of buyer beware.”