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Why Does My Dentist Costs So Much??

August 11, 2011

It’s often mentioned at family functions, or neighborhood parties…..Why does my dentist cost so much?  Here’s a typical conversation: “My wife saw a dentist who quoted her $750.00 for her dental work, halfway through the procedure, when she was numb with a big hole in her tooth, he told her he misquoted the price and it was going to be $1500.00.  She could not exactly argue.”  Another conversation could be getting two different quotes of treatment needed from two different dentists.  Who do you trust?

A little insight on Dentists; different technology, labs, materials, expertise experience, and the dreaded question, “I thought my dental insurance pays 100%?……

Overhead costs are huge. Anywhere from 60% to 80% of what a patient pays goes toward the expense of running a modern dental practice.  Dentists pay for rent or mortgage payments on their office space, payroll for hygienist, office managers and receptionists, health insurance, taxes, supplies, business insurance and technology-just to name a few.  “A lot of people would be surprised to know how tight the profit margins are.”  Dr. W says from Indianapolis.  And many dentists are still paying student loans from dental school.

Labs differ in the quality of the products they produce. We all want our dentist to be using high-quality labs for things like porcelain crowns and onlays.  Should patients have to ask about the labs?  No.  Patients should trust their dentist to select a good one.  With a good dental lab, come great dentist/lab technician communication, high quality materials, and a warranty for cracks and or breaks.  This enables if any re-dos need to be done that there is no out of pocket expense for the patients for this redo procedure, as dental insurance will not cover it.  (All dental insurance companies have stipulations on frequencies of procedures on particular teeth.  This is listed in VERY small print at the end of the patients’ insurance benefit explanation and often not read and or noticed)

Dental insurance really isn’t insurance. Dental insurance is actually nothing like health insurance or auto insurance.  It’s only a maintenance plan that will cover a percentage of cleanings and x-rays, and maybe half the cost of a crown.  It will not protect you if you need a lot of dental work done.  The maximum annual benefits, $1000 to $1500, haven’t changed in the 50 years since dental insurance became available. Which is not very practical considering the cost of doctor time, mortgage fees, cost of material and lab fees have increased with the fluctuating economy.  Its minor cost assistance, and there’s a widening divide between patients’ expectations of their dental insurance coverage and the actual coverage that’s provided.

Dentists wish patients would value their teeth more. Teeth are a crucial part of health and appearance.  Untreated gum disease, for instance, is linked to heart disease.  (Would you choose a cardiologist based on price?)  With time, you will come to realize that shopping price is a minor concern when it comes to your health.  Any minor cost differences amortized out over a lifetime will become insignificant.  You will get the best results and have the most long-term satisfaction getting care from someone you trust.

So if you’re convinced dentists are worth their fees how do you find a good one?  Here are suggestions from satisfied patients and well qualified dentists:

–          Ask if he or she uses specialists.  Who does your oral surgery?  If the person on the phone says, “We do it everything, which would scare me.

–          Ask your primary care physician which dentist he/she uses.  Ask your lawyer.  Ask your boss.  In other words, ask the professionals already in your life that you “trust.”

–          Ask a dental specialist, like an endodontist.  One specialist wrote to tell me, “The best way to find a good dentist is to find a specialist who sees everyone’s patients on a referral basis.  He or she will know who is good and who isn’t.  Trust me, as a specialist; I know who is doing what, because I see their work every day.” Patty Helms, Endodontist.

–          If a dentist does not take several, “in-network” dental plans, because he or she does not need to, that will be a good dentist.  Those dentists that are “in-network” for every plan under the sun do so get tons of patients sent their way.  These offices are more for quantity not usually quality.

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