How to Compare Dental Costs – And Save A Lot
You may be facing a trip to the dentist and wondering if there is a way to be more prepared. You can compare dental costs and save a lot, by understanding your options.
A trip to the dentist can cost a significant amount of money, with costs differing between different clinics.
However, there are ways you can reduce your dental costs by comparing quotes and knowing all your options.
Dental care is not something you can put off for many years, with most Australians requiring dental care throughout their lives in some form.
Unfortunately, many people are unable to outlay a large amount in one go, so it’s important to understand different quotes and any options for public dental or health cover you may have.
What Is The Best Way To Compare Dental Costs
The best way to compare dental costs is to first have a solid understanding of what treatments you require.
You can do this by having a dental consultation which will usually cost you a fee.
Call around different dental clinics to find out the lowest price available to you.
You may also receive a free or reduced consultation if you are a member of a private health fund, are eligible for public dental care, have a Medicare card or visit a teaching clinic.
When you have your consultation, your dentist will provide you with a treatment plan which is also a quote.
From there, you can do a couple of things: first, you can call, email or look online for different clinic’s price lists.
This will take some time, however, will give you the opportunity to find the best price in your area.
Alternatively, or in conjunction with the above, you can access our Dental Cost Calculator which will show you the average prices for your state or territory for each treatment.
This will allow you to see whether your quote is at the lower or higher end of the area’s average cost.
You can also lookup your public dental eligibility, including yearly caps, or contact a teaching clinic to access reduced treatment.
Another option is if you have private health cover, for which you will need to check your waiting periods and yearly caps for general and major dental.
What Are Dental Item Codes
When you receive a treatment plan, you will see dental item codes next to each service.
These are a set of procedural codes for oral health and dentistry treatments.
The codes go up to 999 and set out the different treatment types for different teeth.
For example, diagnostic services such as oral exams and x-rays, are items 011-091.
Preventative, prophylactic and bleaching services are 111-171, including teeth whitening and removal of plaque.
Periodontics services such as gingivectomy and removal of infection are item codes 213-251.
Item codes 311-399 include oral surgery such as tooth extraction and treatment for maxillofacial injuries, whereas endodontics are items 411-458.
Endodontics is root and pulp canals. Restorative services such as fillings are items 511-597.
Prosthodontics – items 611-779 include crowns, bridges, implants and dentures.
Orthodontics are items 811-881 and include services such as braces and plates.
Item codes 911-972 include emergencies, anaesthesia and drug therapy, and codes 981-999 are all others not mentioned in the other sections.
These codes are used to allocate pricing and also by health funds to provide rebates.
These codes also assist you if you need to claim on WorkCover or from an accident.
Getting A Quote Once You Have the Item Codes
Once you have the item codes, you can search for different pricing rather easily.
This can be through calling dental clinics as mentioned above. You can also use our Dental Cost Calculator and select the codes direct.
Having the item codes will allow you to get the most accurate quotes possible, as you will have the exact treatment information.
You can also ask your private health fund which services they cover and how much your rebate is when you have the codes.
For private health members, you will have a cap for general and major dental respectively each year.
Knowing these codes will assist in you understanding any waiting periods and treatments you’re not covered for.
If you’re eligible for public dental care, these codes will also assist in finding out which treatments are covered and how they fit under your annual cap.
Why Do Prices Differ So Much From Dentist To Dentist
Unfortunately, dentists across Australia don’t have regulated pricing.
The Australian Dental Association focuses more on quality of care than the cost.
This means that dental clinic pricing will vary from clinic to clinic and location to location.
For example, the average cost of a checkup across Australian states and territories can differ by more than a hundred dollars.
The average cost of a check-up at the dentist in 2019 was $215, which includes an exam, scale, clean and fluoride treatment.
However, the cheapest cost across Australia was $156 and the most expensive at $296.
If you need more than a yearly check-up, such as fillings, the average cost is between $156 and $206 dependent on location.
A root canal has an average cost of $287 for one canal, simple tooth extraction may cost $191 or a full crown has an average cost of $1,573.
Dental clinics can charge whatever pricing they like, and some may also rely on the potential of private health cover rebates to charge a little bit more.
Knowing that patients will access some form of rebate or even public health assistance such as Medicare or dental vouchers, means dentists can charge a little higher for fees without impacting the patient as much.
Why Does The Dentist Cost So Much
Dentists across Australia also charge higher fees due to a shortage in dentists.
Dentistry is a very niche profession, with no other occupations being able to carry out the same work.
This means that dental clinics can charge whatever fees they like and have less competition.
It’s also been accepted so widely for so long as a more expensive health service, that people don’t question costs as much as they used to.
Dental services are also an ‘elective’ health service, meaning that we choose to visit a dentist.
This means that many Australians will just put up with pain or discomfort, along with decaying or discoloured teeth.
No one is forced to go to the dentist unless in an emergency, although many emergency departments can handle certain oral injuries.
In 2019, it was estimated that more than two million Australians avoided or delayed the dentist each year due to the costs involved.
This is significant and shows that many Australians are concerned about the costs of visiting a dentist and whether or not they can afford an ‘elective’ health treatment.
What Are Your Options
Although you may be looking to reduce costs and avoid the dentist, oral health can lead to future health issues.
In 2020, 2.2% of Australia’s health burden included oral diseases, other figures also show higher numbers of older Australians requiring major dental work later in life.
Regular visits to the dentist can assist you in lowering the costs of dental care and emergency work throughout your life. You will also spread out the costs.
The key to lowering dental costs is to compare price lists and to consider visiting dental clinics who will provide a free consultation for cosmetic work (only).
You can choose to visit at different times to split up the cost of each service. You can also choose to ring other dentists in your area to find out if their price is less or more.
When looking at the costs of your required dental services, you should also find out which are covered by private health insurance.
If you are eligible for public dental care, you should also find out what you are able to claim on Medicare and your limits.
You can also look at visiting a teaching clinic or joining an association such as Smile which will charge you a low annual fee for set discounts at participating dentists.
If you’re looking at how to compare dental costs, and save money, there are several ways to do this.
To summarise, you visit a dentist to access your treatment plan, compare prices, understand the average costs in your area and find out what (if any) rebates you are eligible for.
Remember that, in most cases, you will pay a consultation fee in your first visit.
You will then be provided with a treatment plan that you can decide to accept or reject.
If you are happy to accept the quote, you can break up the costs in multiple visits.
You may also be eligible to visit a public dental clinic prior to a private dentist.
The public clinic may be able to assist or provide you with dental vouchers to attend a private clinic.
You could also visit a teaching clinic for reduced treatment by students.
Ideally, you will be well informed on what dental services you require, which clinic provides the best quality care for the price, whether you have private health or are eligible for public health care.
This will assist you in making the right decision and maximising your savings.
By Andrew Adams
Created at October 30, 2020, Updated at June 30, 2021