San Francisco and Marin CA
Dental care in the United States has a reputation for being rather pricey, a reputation that is not exactly undeserved. While dental checkups, cleanings, and routine visits are often very reasonable, dental procedures beyond this can be very costly, almost staggeringly so: implants and root canals can run into the thousands of dollars, and veneers and orthodontia can be more expensive still. Given the high bills of many dental services, it is not exactly illegitimate to wonder why it is that dentistry is so expensive.
Costs of being a dentist
Part of the cost of dentistry stems from the cost of actually being a dentist.
There are several of these, including:
Education and student debt
The first part of this is the price of education. Dentists have to acquire quite a bit of this: a general dentist has typically undertaken at least eight years at a university (four years in dental school on top of four years of university), and specialists – such as orthodontists, prosthodontists, and periodontists – often have to undertake between three and eight years of additional education. Unless the would-be dentist has very wealthy (and very understanding) parents, this education comes with potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.
Furthermore, advances in dentistry are made all the time. Most dentists aspire to provide the best care possible, and that means keeping up-to-date with the latest in techniques and technologies. Seminars or courses are not cheap (upwards of $4,000 per course) and may additionally demand investments in air travel and hotels, costs which add up over time.
Dentists must also pay for the place in which they practice (or, if part of a firm, for their share of it), and for the electricity, water, internet, and other utilities they use. Additionally, they must purchase equipment, medical supplies, sterilization chemicals and machines, computers, and so on. They will also want to make sure that all of these are the best available, since any efforts to economize may compromise the level of care they provide. Also, dentists typically not only want to use the best tools but also employ the best people (such as receptionists, billing agents, hygienists, and so on) that can be found. Often, this excellence comes at the cost of higher pay for these personnel, and this adds to the cost of dentistry.
Costs of procedures
All these expenses occur as a part of doing business as a dentist. However, certain procedures have other costs still. Sometimes, they might include the involvement of a specialist (such as an orthodontist for braces and Invisalign or an endodontist or periodontist for implants and root canals), and usually multiple visits to these, using materials and time. Implants and root canals also make use of crowns, which have to be created in an off-site lab and whose expense gets added to the price. Furthermore, while most dentists have x-ray machines, some may have top-of-the-line devices such as CEREC (Chairside Economic Restorations of Esthetic Ceramics) machines, which can use computers to create appliances like crowns in the office, but which also need to be purchased – and they can cost upwards of $100,000 – and maintained.
Shortcomings of dental insurance
Dental insurance can also seem like a bigger hit to the pocketbook because often patients pay more than they would for other kinds of medical care. This is largely because of insurance. First and foremost, dental insurance has a deductible, like health insurance, but it also has a much lower total upper limit on what they will cover. This can be adequate for preventative care, since – after deductibles and co-pays – it will usually cover almost all of the price of such care as yearly checkups, cleanings, and x-rays. However, it typically will only cover only half of the cost of a crown, and usually only one. And there are some things it will not cover at all, such as veneers, because these are seen as cosmetic and not necessary.
This situation is all the more acute because many people do not attend to dental hygiene (such as brushing or flossing) as much as they should and will often delay a visit to the dentist until something hurts or feels amiss. This means that they often only visit the dentist for the most costly of procedures.
Expensive dental care
Therefore, dental care seems very expensive because often it is very expensive. Fortunately, many dentists can lessen the blow somewhat by offering discounts and payment plans. Still, a patient’s best bet for saving money is going to checkups, brushing, and flossing.
Call our dentists in the Bay Area at Glen Park Dental — (415) 799-3900 — to schedule a consultation.