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Why Are Dentists So Expensive? [9 Reasons 2023]

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Dental care is expensive, leaving people wondering if it is essential. While routine cleanings may be cheaper, other tooth and mouth procedures can add up quickly. 

Dentists are so expensive because most procedures require specialist expertise. Dental insurance may only cover routine visits, not other services. The number of appointments, supplies needed, and sterilization practices increases the final bill. Other factors such as business operating costs and practice location can raise overall costs.

1. Amount Of Insurance Coverage

Dental services are generally covered by health or dental insurance policies. In most cases, insurance covers a preset number of routine cleanings and checkups, typically once or twice a year. 

Some health plans offer dental insurance but only pay for it partially, with the individual paying the rest of the monthly premium. 

Some medical insurances do not cover any dental work, unless it is medically necessary. Without coverage, individuals can purchase their own dental plan, paying a monthly premium, while also paying any deductibles or copays.

Insurance policies vary on other services, such as X-rays, fluoride treatments, cavity filling, crown moldings, root canals, and so on. The patient may have to pay co-insurance, a deductible, a copay, or the entire cost of the service. 

Other insurance plans will have a maximum allotment of what they will cover per year, and anything beyond that is the patient’s responsibility.

Keep in mind that even if you do have a dental plan, they all vary in what and how much they cover for routine and other tooth care. It is important to know the fine details of any dental insurance you have so that you are not surprised when the bills come.

To encourage people to care for their teeth, many dental practices offer financing for their patients. This allows them to pay off the bill in monthly installments. Additionally, they may offer discounts for those without any insurance coverage or for cash payments in full.

To further complicate the insurance matter, some dental practices only accept certain insurances because they are approved to work with them. Or, a dental practice may find that it is easier to work with some insurance providers over others due to the paperwork or billing process.

2. Other Services During Routine Visits

At routine appointments, the dentist may take X-rays, apply sealants to prevent cavities, and more. 

While these are used as diagnostic or preventative practices, they may not be fully covered by insurance policies. The patient will have to pay for these “extras.”

Dental visits can take an hour or more per visit, and time costs money.

3. Additional Appointments

If you need repair work or treatment for an issue, you will need to go back for more appointments. 

Generally, these appointments will require advanced equipment or more supplies and materials; the more complex a procedure, the higher the cost.

4. Equipment, Supplies, Labs

Equipment to take X-rays or supplies to apply fluoride, sealants, use floss, and so on to your teeth and mouth, all cost money to operate or use. 

Pain management medication, such as novocaine or nitrous oxide, can also be expensive..

Prices for supplies can change due to inflation and market demand. This in turn will affect overall billing and how much you may pay out-of-pocket.

Dentists use high-quality labs or machines to create products such as crowns and dentures. Dentists choose ones that are top-of-the-line to give you a long-lasting treatment. 

If personalized designed items, such as a crown, break in your mouth, then both you and your dentist are wasting time and money to fix it.

The materials that a dentist uses to fill a cavity will vary in price as well. For example, a resin filling that matches the color of your tooth costs more than an amalgam, or silver, filling.

5. Sterilization

Dental offices clean and sanitize the equipment as well as the chair you sit in.

Dental assistants and dentists wear personal protective equipment (PPE), donning clean gear for each patient.

Supplies for cleaning, sanitation, and sterilization machines for tools are costly.

6. Dental Expertise

Dentists and their assistants undergo extensive educational training to provide services to their patients. 

Most dentists complete eight years of higher education, then two to six years of residency work, depending upon their area of specialty.

Beyond their speciality, dentists are also trained to look for signs of oral cancer or jaw issues. 

Trained professionals cost money because patients need knowledgeable people for their oral care. It can be both an art and a science to give patients a great smile and a healthy mouth. 

7. Practice Operating Costs

Dentists need to pay for many things to operate their practice.

These include the following: 

  • The building (rent or mortgage)
  • Building codes
  • Utilities (electricity internet, etc.), 
  • Payroll (hygienists, cleaning staff, office manager)
  • Insurance (malpractice, employee benefits)
  • Taxes (property, income, etc.)
  • Technology (maintenance and updated)
  • Regulations/Fees (radiation, drug administration, accommodations for those with disabilities)

8. Patient Self-Care

Patients that do not care for their teeth daily or avoid going to the dentist for routine cleanings, generally pay more expensive bills. 

Typically, the teeth are going to have more build-up, gum disease, or other mouth problems that will need attention and treatment.  

Preventative care can keep costs down.

9. Location

Costs for services will vary depending on where you live

They can also vary from practice to practice since dentists have different material and technology suppliers, amounts of staff, and operating costs. 

You may need to shop around for an office that best reflects what you are looking for in both skilled professionals and cost.

Conclusion

When the office manager of a dental practice gives you the final bill, you may feel shocked! 

However, working with a skilled oral health professional is expensive. Dentists must manage a practice and all of its operating costs to help you stay healthy. 

Factors such as medical supplies, equipment for X-rays and labs, and patient insurance can also affect out-of-pocket costs for the patient.

People can shop around for dental insurance policies and dental practices that offer them skilled services for the best price.

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