Why Does the Dentist Cost So Much?
Have you ever wondered… “why does the Dentist cost so much?!”
Maybe you’ve done some research – perhaps you’ve even compared the prices in Australia against those in other countries.
But if you’ve never really found the answer, and instead find yourself saying, “it’s just too expensive!”, this may be stopping you from visiting your Dentist.
Delaying your visit could be doing a lot of damage to your health.
Now please don’t get me wrong.
I do understand, it’s hard to spend your money on something that can be viewed as so costly.
So, what I’m going to be doing today is to help you solve the answer to that question.
To help you understand why something so necessary for your health can and should still be viewed as affordable.
So, here’s a little sample of some of the information I will be sharing with you today;
- The money that goes into running and maintaining a dental clinic
- The costs involved with being a dentist
- What prices you can expect to pay for different procedures, and why
Besides the 3 points above, there are another 3 topics that should be discussed in relation to cost;
Firstly, you must stop comparing the prices of dental work here in Australia to those overseas.
This is because insurance, wages, regulations for sterilisation and risk factors are A LOT different.
You know that old saying “it’s like comparing apples to oranges?”.
It really applies to an overseas dental clinic versus an Australian dental clinic – they are just not the same.
Secondly, your dentists’ tools, equipment and servicing costs all take a lot of time and money, and, unfortunately, somebody has to do it.
Thankfully, that somebody isn’t you.
You’re the patient that receives the benefits from your dentist only using high-quality products and all the upkeep that they continually require.
Also, did you know that your dentists’ studies did not finish at University?
They are constantly in training to ensure that their knowledge is up to date with the latest advancements in technology.
And we all know how much technology continues to advance, especially over the last few decades!
Just like your hairdresser needs to keep up with the latest trends in today’s society, your dentist needs to know exactly what is going on with the latest materials and products.
Lastly, there is also a vast difference in the prices of the procedures that are performed.
So you will find some treatments are far more affordable than others.
This post is a rather long one, so please refer to the Table of Contents below.
You can use this to skip straight through to any section you would prefer to read.
Australia vs. Overseas
You may find that you are comparing the prices of dental work here in Australia to the prices of dental work overseas.
You may find yourself thinking, “if they can do it so cheap over there, why can’t we?”.
Well, sorry to say, but you must stop those thoughts because so many things about our clinics and procedures are so very different.
• Insurance and sterilisation – In Australia, our sterilisation regulations are far more thorough, which helps to ensure the safety of your treatment. Our dentists’ must also all have insurance, whereas overseas Dentists’ do not.
• Wages – The wages paid to Dentists and their staff in Australia are much higher than those overseas, which is another reason behind the higher expenses of your procedures.
• Risk factors – There are fewer risk factors involved in having your dental work performed in Australia. One being, our dentists’ pay a lot more in rent for a cleanlier environment to house your dental clinic, ensuring that you feel more comfortable.
Let us delve a bit deeper into all of this for a moment.
Let’s begin to understand the difference between the price of dental work in Australia versus the price of dental work performed overseas.
Prices in places such as Turkey can be so cheap because those dentists do not even need to have insurance!
Australian dentists must have insurance, to abide by regulations set by the Australian Dental Association.
This has put a heavy cost on the dentists to cover themselves for any legal implications.
However, we should thank our lucky stars that our dentists do have insurance.
Because this means that we have strict follow-up procedures through complaints commission boards or courts.
These will cover you if you are not satisfied with the results of your procedure, so you can feel protected when receiving any form of treatment.
The sterilisation procedures in other countries may be on par with ours, but Australia has far more regulations as to which we must abide by.
Our dentists have to account for every movement which they make.
They must record every instrument in the Order Club (the standardised Government regulation sterilising machine that every instrument has to go through), before marking and tagging their instruments.
This must happen every time the instrument gets used.
Once it gets used in a procedure, it must be sterilised again and go through the same process.
This, as you can tell, all takes a lot of time and costs them a lot of money, but it is all for your own safety!
Once again, overseas this is not a procedure that their Dentists have to follow.
Overseas places may also have a lot of staff, but their wages are very low.
Australia has a minimum wage, meaning there is a regulation as to what the absolute lowest our employees can be paid.
Other countries also do not have to pay their employees compensation, they do not have public holidays, they do not get paid for four weeks annual leave per year, and they do not have superannuation!
All of these things employees in Australia do get paid, and all of which cost the employer a lot of money.
This is another thing that we should thank our lucky stars for, otherwise, we would not be able to afford to live the lifestyle which we do!
There can be a lot of risk factors involved with getting your dental work performed overseas that we just do not have in Australia.
Mainly, the work you are having done maybe getting rushed, as you are overseas on a holiday, and this means you are receiving your procedure in a limited timeframe.
Dental work should not be a rushed process.
You may not be able to receive all the follow-up appointments and necessary maintenance you require, both before and after you return home.
Also, you may find that not all overseas dentists’ have received the amount of training or have the same amount of experience that Australian dentists’ have.
This lack of knowledge means that there is a higher chance that something may go wrong with your procedure.
If that is the case, you may actually have to get the work fixed when you return back to Australia.
Which unfortunately for you, means that you end up paying a lot more money than you originally intended to when you booked your overseas holiday.
Have you ever thought about the costs involved in running a dental clinic?
What goes on behind the scenes isn’t easy or cheap.
So please allow me to give you a brief overview of how things work behind the dentists’ door.
Firstly, there are so many items that are only allowed to be used once, and then must be disposed of.
This is all to prevent any chance of infection occurring.
Gloves, masks, plastic covers, suction tips and so forth.
It costs roughly $30 per person just for these small items alone!
But it is simply for your safety.
Then, even the simplest of things like the tools our dentists use cost quite a lot.
Something that looks like a pair of stainless-steel pliers to you, like a tool you would purchase from Bunnings for $20 or maybe $40, will actually cost your dentist more like $400.
That is because, once again for your own safety, everything your dentist purchases must go through Government regulations.
Now onto the bigger things, like dental equipment.
A laser, all up, will cost about $200,000!
This does not include the servicing costs – every few months it has to be serviced to ensure it keeps running efficiently.
That dental chair that you sit in?
Well, the money that your dentist will spend on that reclining chair, to ensure you feel safe and comfortable, is upwards of $50,000 – and that’s just for a cheap chair!
You’ll find a good Dental clinic spends a lot more money on a more expensive chair that is more reliable.
This chair will have a good compressor, a good suction motor and all the handpieces that are all connected to the chair.
It must have great light with lightbulbs kept on hand in case they need replacing, and any certain chemicals that must be run through the chair every day.
As much as you wish they would, these machines don’t just run themselves.
Usually, there is one employee in every clinic whose job is to take care of the machines.
Looking after their hygiene issues and ensure they keep running efficiently.
Your Dentist’s machinery needs to be so well cared for and looked after, and that too takes a lot of time and money.
Another necessity that you will see in every dental clinic is an x-ray machine.
Just the small x-ray machine, the scanner that goes in your mouth, is $12,000 alone.
On top of that, you then have the machine (the camera which takes the photos). This software takes the photographs off the machine and keeps them on file.
There is also another software for using the practice itself, monthly fees for using the software and licenses.
Every single procedure a dentist does that involves x-rays must be kept on record, which is once again very time-consuming.
Not only does your dentist have to pay fees for keeping those records on file, but they have to pay someone to upload those records.
If you start to think about it, you’ll realise how quickly all of these costs really do begin to add up.
Education and Training
Your dentist will spend anywhere from 3 – 7 years studying at university to get their degree.
This typically costs anywhere from $42,000 to $259,000 (the standard cost is $100,000).
But did you know they also regularly keep going to courses?
Your dentist will probably be paying at least a minimum of $1000 per day in training to ensure their knowledge is up to date with the latest advancements in technology.
Your dentist has to and must keep up with advancements in the industry.
The materials that have changed over the last 25 years are extraordinary.
They need to continuously keep learning the latest materials and products, and how to use them for you.
Dental Laboratory and Technicians
The Dental laboratory is the place where your dental products, such as crowns, veneers, bridges, dentures, dental implants, even mouthguards and whitening trays are all manufactured by a technician.
Usually based off-site, the laboratory will require a fee for these services to be completed – yet again another charge for your dentist!
Rest assured, although based off-site, your dentist must know the technician and trust their work.
They will ensure it is reputable before they provide them with a prescription to manufacture your dental devices.
We cannot forget the standard costs of running a business, that every business has to take into account.
- Accountant fees
- Licenses, permits and registration fees
- Internet connection
- Other insurances i.e. building and contents
- Stationery supplies
- Marketing and advertising
- Website set-up
- Computer equipment
- Office equipment
- Furniture and shop fit-out
- Security systems
Procedures and Maintenance
The costs behind dental work do vary depending on a number of factors.
What type of work you are having performed, their location, their outlay, and the difference in the method they use to provide your procedure.
Therefore, you may find that the cost for the same procedure can vary depending on your dentist, or your dental issue at hand.
It may take longer for them to perform a treatment but can all depend on the technique they use and how extreme your issue is.
However, I will give an idea of how much a procedure will cost, and why.
If you are having something as simple as just fillings put in, all you are paying for is the price of the filling and the time spent in the dental chair.
There is no follow-up appointments or maintenance required for this treatment.
Depending on the location of the filling in the mouth, you can find the price of this will range from $153 for one tooth to $202 for two teeth.
Check out our Dental Cost Calculator to find the average price of all treatments in your state.
Braces and Invisalign
If you are having orthodontics, the cost of orthodontic brackets is quite expensive.
Every single bracket is pricey, and each case is different – as each tooth is different.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ factor, so a price is hard to determine without a quote from your Dentist.
However, for the traditional metal braces, you can expect to pay anywhere between $5000 to $9000 for an 18-month plan.
This price is so high as it includes your follow-up appointments, including your retainers, and the maintenance works your dentist needs to do.
A child can easily knock off an orthodontic bracket, but your dentist may not charge you for that.
Lingual braces are also known as internal braces.
They are attached to the inside of your teeth instead of the outside, making them basically invisible.
Lingual braces are more expensive.
Your price may range from $8000 – $10,000 for your 18-month plan.
However these only work in certain cases.
If they will work for you, you can look at paying anywhere from $3500 to $9000 for your full treatment.
Dental Implants and Cost
If you are having dental implants put in, prices can range depending on what implant company you are using.
Most are from Switzerland or Germany and made from alloy, which is very expensive.
A single implant can cost anywhere from $3000 to $7000, or more if your procedure is more complicated.
If you require an implant-supported bridge (when four implants are used to replace an entire row of teeth), this can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000.
Once again, it’s the maintenance of the implants that makes the entire process so costly.
You will need multiple visits to your dentist over several months.
The initial implant needs time to heal and merge with your jawbone before your dentist can place the crown over the top.
The porcelain for veneers is also an expensive factor.
These days, the laboratories are all using the software in computers to help manufacture your perfect smile, so you are putting the costs of the computers and all of their software behind the veneers as well.
A porcelain veneer can cost up to $2000 per tooth.
The less expensive option is a composite veneer, which is up to $860 per tooth.
As you can see, it’s generally the maintenance required on the mouth and the materials that are used that can set you back price-wise.
Does a Dentist get Paid more than the Average Person in Society?
No – although dentists’ have a reputation for getting paid more than your surgeon, your firefighter, your teacher, and so forth, this is simply not the case.
This used to be the way, but it just does not add up anymore.
The profit margin that dentists receive is simply not the same these days, with the added costs, the regulations, studies, upkeep, technologies always advancing, and so on.
Just like you in today’s society, your dentist also has to keep up with new technology.
The materials that have changed over the last 25 years along with the advancements in technology are simply incredible.
You may not know that a good dentist is always at a course, always learning the latest materials and products .
They need to know exactly what is going on so that they can provide YOU with this information and performer the best service.
Along with increasing their knowledge on a regular basis, they have very strict insurance and sterilisation procedures as to which they must abide by, all for your safety. This has hit them with a pretty high cost.
The cost of their tools and equipment is also extraordinary, ranging up to $200,000!
They also need to get to know their Laboratory and Technician who manufacture the products for your mouth, another expensive procedure.
And let’s not forget the standard costs of running a business, including rates, electricity, water, rent, wages, licenses and permits… the list seems like it never ends.
Rest assured though, your dentist does not necessarily take the perception that they are expensive or overpaid to heart.
After all, they work as hard as possible for your health and safety, and to ensure that your appointments are comfortable.
We do realise it’s just hard for the public to view what goes on behind the scenes in the dental office.
Hopefully, though, you have now gained a better understanding and have left any fear of attending an appointment behind and can book your next appointment at a clinic without worry!
Do you have a particular question on dental costs?
By Andrew Adams
Created at July 24, 2019, Updated at August 25, 2021