A few cavities after eating too much chocolate, a broken tooth, an infection … It only takes a few things for a dental bill to reach a few thousand dollars. Faced with such costs, consumers would be well advised to learn more about the fees charged by their dentist and to shop around, if necessary.
Franck Vassaux was speechless when his dentist explained to him the treatments his teeth needed: there was for $ 10,000! The 29-year-old computer scientist had neglected his teeth in recent years, but he never expected such a bill to repair four teeth in bad shape. “I was shocked,” he says. I thought it would be 10 times cheaper. ”
Fillings, root canal treatments, crowns … All these treatments are expensive. The young man is fortunate to have group insurance that reimburses certain dental expenses. But he cannot claim more than $ 2,000 a year. “I could afford to pay, but I find it overkill to spend my whole year savings on four teeth,” he says.
When people say they are afraid of the dentist, perhaps they are afraid of the dentist rather than the instruments. The cost of treatments easily reaches several hundred dollars, even a few thousand. To add to the dismay of patients, fees can vary from one dentist to another. A few calls to dental clinics in the Montreal area show that a first appointment can cost from $ 165 to $ 275, for an examination, cleaning, scaling and x-rays, if there is no major problem.
Because of the high costs, many consumers neglect to have their teeth treated: 40% of adolescents and adults in Quebec had not consulted a dentist for more than a year, in 2008, according to a report by the Ministry of Health and Social Services. “Dental fees are certainly a barrier to the accessibility of care, and this is one of the reasons why Quebecers’ dental health is not improving,” said Dr André Lavallière, president of the Association. Quebec public health dentists. “It is true that it is expensive and that some people have difficulty paying for our services,” admits the president of the Order of Dentists of Quebec (ODQ), Dr Barry Dolman. But you have to think that good treatment lasts a lifetime. ”
The right price
We understand of course the importance of good care to keep our teeth healthy. But how can consumers make sure they pay the right price for the services they receive? Dentists, like garage owners, do not display their hourly rate and the cost of the parts they replace. There is indeed a Guide to rates, published each year by the Association of Dental Surgeons of Quebec (ACDQ). However, due to its complexity, this document is not intended for the public, even though it can be consulted at the National Archives of Quebec. Also, dentists are not required to follow the guide’s suggestions; they are free to determine their fees.
To add to the complexity of the case, specialist dentists, such as endodontists (root canal specialists) or prosthodontists (crowns and bridges), have higher rates. Dentists entrust them with the most complicated cases. “Surely, it is difficult for consumers to find their way around and know the prices because they have no reference base,” admits the president of the ACDQ, Dr Serge Langlois.
How do you do that? Call everywhere and choose the clinic offering the best prices? Instead, Dr Langlois recommends asking for references from family and friends. Consumers should not hesitate to ask their dentist questions about their rates, adds Dr Barry Dolman. He reminds that the dentist, before performing an act, must provide the patient with a treatment plan giving an overview of the costs. “For important treatments, it may be justified to ask for a second opinion,” says the president of the ODQ, whose mandate is to protect the public. The main thing is to feel confident. ”
About a third of Quebecers have group insurance that covers dental care. But they too have an interest in monitoring costs: insurers reimburse the services received based on the ACDQ guide. If their dentist claims a higher rate, insured consumers must pay the difference.
Dentists are free to demand the fees they want because of their monopoly on dental care, says Dr André Lavallière. “The practice of dentistry is done almost exclusively inside private practices,” he notes. Dentists are trying to keep this model of care, but it is hurting the public. ”
Dental hygienists in Quebec have been demanding for several years the right to open private offices, independent of those of dentists, to offer preventive care to the population, as is done in the rest of Canada (see other text). “There is no competition in the dental field today, and it is harmful for the population because it increases prices,” says Diane Duval, president of the Regroupement des hygiénistes dentaires du Québec (RHDQ).
In the meantime, some patients who, like Franck Vassaux, face astronomical bills, are thinking of getting their teeth treated abroad. “I have friends, French like me, who have been treated in Estonia or Tunisia,” said the young man. In Quebec, the firm Services santé international (SSI), which specializes in medical tourism trips to Cuba, receives many calls from consumers who want to reduce their dental bill. “Dental costs in Cuba are about half of what we pay here,” says SSI president Alain Leclerc.
In recent years, the agency had stopped sending clients to Cuban dentists, who were struggling to meet demand and had to cancel appointments. But the service is about to resume, said Leclerc, who is currently checking to ensure that care is better organized in Cuban clinics.
Closer to home, the university faculties of dentistry offer the population care at half price. For example, the University of Montreal dental clinic is particularly looking for patients who need a root canal, bridge or full prosthesis to complete student training. For these cases, appointments are offered in three or four weeks.
But the most economical solution, according to Dr Barry Dolman, is the daily use of dental floss. “It costs almost nothing, it keeps your teeth and gums healthy and it helps prevent cavities. However, only 30% of Quebecers use it, ”deplores the president of the Order of Dentists. This is a very simple way to reduce your bill.
COSTS OF DENTAL CARE (Based on the 2012 edition of the ACDQ Price Guide)
A complete examination, plus cleaning, scaling and x-rays: $ 164 to $ 209
Additional cost for a panoramic x-ray: $ 65
Filling (sealing) – only one surface for a molar (the cost increases with the number of surfaces to be treated):
– Amalgam (grey): $ 67
– composite (white): $ 104
extraction : $ 101 Surgical tooth extraction (eg wisdom tooth): $ 163 to $ 349
Root canal treatment ( one channel): $ 431
Crown: $ 726 + lab fees
For all treatments, prices increase according to the complexity of the intervention. When care is provided by a specialist, prices are higher. For children under 10, the majority of care (except preventive care such as cleaning) is covered by the Régie de l’assurance Maladie du Québec.Premium alertsWe found 33 additional writing issues
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