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Why is dentistry so expensive? The answer revealed.

No dentist can get through a week without being asked by a patient, “why is dentistry so expensive!?”  We’re here to give you a behind the scene look at why your dental bill is higher than you might expect, and how to manage your budget to get the best care for you.  

Being in private practice my entire career, this is a question I’ve encountered on a daily basis. Believe me when I say this, your dentist feels the stress and concerns as much as you, after all they have these tough and emotional financial conversations with their patients every day.

Unfortunately, public funding is quite limited for dental. Most is injected into basic care for lower socioeconomic individuals and families under schemes like the Public Dental System, only available to those on a concession, Child Dental Benefit Schedule, for eligible families with children aged between 2 – 17 years, and the National Partnership Agreement which provided $350.3 million from 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2020 for additional services to around 580,000 adult public dental patients. 

The real concern.

Even with all this government funding, a large percentage of the population are left with no financial support leaving them to foot the bill themselves, or more tragically, miss out on dental treatment altogether. In fact in 2016/17 over 2 million Australians delayed or didn’t see the dentist due to cost. This avoidance inevitably leads to more pain and more cost as problems only get bigger over time.

Despite the petitioning from various groups including the Australian Dental Association, and a recent report by the Gratten Institute, governments have been unable to fund a broader more universal scheme. This means that most dental care is privately funded directly or indirectly through the extensive private health insurance industry. Given our conditioning to heavily subsidised medical care, dentistry and other medical related services such as veterinary bills can come as quite a shock without any financial assistance!

The impact of limited government funding on your bill.

Dentistry is an expensive business to operate and staff, especially if you want to hire the best team to ensure your patients are getting optimal care and attention. It’s important to know, dentists aren’t out there price gouging the public to line their pockets. There are always rouge operators in any industry and dentistry is the same, however the vast majority of dentists do their absolute best to keep costs to a minimum so that patients can afford the treatment they need and want. So unfortunately, even if we saw a large increase in competition within the industry, there’d likely only be a slight shift in prices. This is not to say that there aren’t huge variations in dental prices throughout the country, because there certainly is. Each practice is run differently, staffed differently, and overheads dictate a lot of how the business of dentistry operates.  Take this period during covid.  A box of face masks would have normally cost around $6 per box.  Practices have paid upwards of $200 per box of 50 masks just to keep their doors open without ever passing these costs on to patients.   

How to reduce your dental bill.

My point is, don’t pick your dentist based on price alone when there are so many factors to consider. Having someone you trust and enjoy going to is extremely important, I would say the most important thing. In the end, regular preventative care is the most affordable way to get dental care, by getting to small problems before they turn big (and expensive!). So look for the best value yes, but find a dentist you love.  Keep up regular appointments, with great daily oral hygiene, and you’ll be well on the way to finding that affordable dental care is actually possible.

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