The Dirty Secret About Dental Insurance: Why is dentistry so expensive?

Categories: blog

why is dentistry so expensiveScotts Valley and Santa Cruz, CA

This is the third installment in a 3-part series. See the first part here and the second part here.

There is a saying I’ve heard: “You can have something cheap, fast, or good. Pick two.”  The idea is that it’s nearly impossible to find a service or commodity that is all three – cheap, fast, AND good.  I think this idea is very applicable to dentistry.  Most people think of dental work as an “item.”  You get a filling, or dentures, or a crown – these are all commodities which have an associated fee.  But this is actually a misconception that can cause a lot of confusion when it comes to understanding the price of dental work.  When someone asks, “why is dentistry so expensive?” the first thing I clarify is that what you are actually receiving in a dental office is not an “item” – it is a “service.”  Yes, the end result is likely something tangible, but there is a lot more that goes into creating that result.For example, one of the services our office provides is single-visit crowns using our CEREC CAD-CAM technology that allows us to actually mill a porcelain crown in under 10 minutes.  No temporaries, no second appointment, no second injection.  Our patients love the convenience of coming once and knowing everything will be completed that day.  When we set the fee for that procedure, we take a lot into consideration.  Some of the factors are obvious: the hard costs of the materials used, the time it will take, the CEREC machine itself.  Some of them are not so obvious: the continuing education we take to know how to use the technology, the skill level involved to perform the procedure, the customer service from the moment someone calls to make the appointment to the moment they leave the office.  I recently provided this very procedure for a new patient who happened to be a nurse, and when she returned for a bite adjustment a few weeks later she was shocked that there was no charge for the follow-up visit.  She insisted I be compensated for the additional time I was spending with her.  While her sentiment was very kind, I assured her that our fees reflect not only the procedure itself, but everything that is involved in making sure our patients have a remarkable experience and are 100% satisfied. 

I hope this blog series has been informative and sheds a little more light on why dental insurance plans are actually not insurance at all but a rebate plan, why they are a bad investment, why some doctors choose to provide fee-for-service dentistry, and how the economics of making those decisions work for both doctor and patient alike.