Often, I feel that I am the dentist that is not only solving my patient’s dental problems but also helping them navigate the world of “how do I pay for my dental treatment”. We all know good dentistry is expensive and Australia doesn’t have a Medicare system like other countries such as the Americas and UK (NHS) that supports dental care.
Hence dental treatments can become very expensive here as patients have to fork out all of the money from their pocket for elective and emergency treatments that they hadn’t anticipated. Most often there is no safety net and the choices are either to put up with the pain or borrow and postpone other important expenses. Having seen this every day in my practice, I had got sick and tired of the system failing my patients again and again
Hence, I have formulated these 7 strategies below for you as a patient to immediately start applying which will save you thousands of dollars at the dentist.
1. Get Your Records From Your Previous Dentist (Saving $400+)
Yes, often patients have seen 2-3 dentists over a period of 1-3 years for preventive dental care or doing some makeshift dental work while they are working out what they want to do. Sometimes the multiple dentists are visited because they are moving into new areas or sometimes they went to someone and had their initial examination and radiographs but didn’t want to go back there as the dentist was too pushy!
What happens over time is that each dentist ends up charging you for radiographs, consults and scans and the records stay with the original doctor.
Yes, you have a right to your records and if asked politely most dentists will forward a soft copy of your radiographs, photographs and clinical notes at no charge to yourself. If you manage an email account, you can create a folder called Dental records and keep saving your records in them.
This could save you upto $ 400 when you go see the next dentist for your routine maintenance as he won’t have to do this all over again unless something has changed since.
At Healthy Smiles, we gladly provide pour patients records to them at no extra cost and encourage second opinions when warranted. Find the practice you can trust.
2. Ask for a Preventive Maintenance plan (Saving $1000+ in complex work)
A truly caring dentist who has your interest at heart will have an active maintenance department with hygienists and therapists making sure the bugs on your teeth and gums are removed professionally every 6 months at the minimum.
As gum disease and dental decay start with an initial ingress and slowly and painlessly progress with time, it is not hard to detect these problems in their infancy. I small filling can cost you as little as $120 while a root all canal and a crown can be as much as $4000.
A stitch in time saves nine
Very few people understand the real reason for dental problems (both decay and gum disease) is bacterial in origin and if you do your bit at home and let the professionals do their job every 6 months you can avoid expensive dental work such as root canals, loss of teeth due to cracks and implants.
3. Get Private Health Insurance (Saving $1500+ for a family just for dental)
Yes, you heard me right, the maths is quite simple. The average spends for a 6 monthly check-up and clean with radiographs is approximately $300. If you are a family of 4, this is $1200 for each visit and $2400 a year. With most insurances such as BUPA (We are platinum members first provider) and HCF, you get bi-annual (twice a year), preventive care services for “Zero out of pocket gap”. Add to this 2 mouth guards and also a $1000 major dental cover on average per person per year, it slowly starts to add up to a very good proposition.
Even with a comprehensive policy which is approximately $4000 per which includes hospital and extras, just your dental work can help you recoup your initial premiums.
In addition, there are other benefits such as optometry and physiotherapist etc!
Plus the tax-saving and reduction in Medicare levy!
I’m no expert on health insurance but when I checked my claims for the last 3 years against what I paid for my family, I was clearly ahead by over $1500.
P.S- I forgot to mention my lifetime orthodontic/Invisalign claim for $1500 per child!!! Oh Yeahhhhh
4. Spread Your Treatment Over Time (Saving $1000 every year on out of pocket)
Most dentists when they do a comprehensive examination have a duty of care to inform you of all the findings and give you a full diagnosis along with a treatment Plan
This doesn’t mean that you have to do all this work in one go as you have limited major dental cover with your private insurance.
The right dentist who has your financial interest at heart will be able to assess your dental situation and should be able to give you a prioritised dental plan and a risk-weighted assessment of the different problems in the mouth.
Sometimes old fillings that have a crack or a tooth that has a secondary cavity may stay like that for a few months or years. As most problems in dental are very chronic in nature, sometimes patching up some things and fixing others with proper long term restorations can help you maximise the private health insurance rebate and save you thousands of dollars and help you spread your treatment plan over a few years.
A real patient story: Mrs Jones (name changed) had private health insurance and was covered for $1000 for major dental work per year. When we sat down and looked at all the problems together on the photographs and X-ray scans, it was quite evident the old dentist has not been upfront with the solutions and given her all the options. His attitude had been, “we will see what happens” and “let’s keep an eye on it”. The result had been a mouth full of patched up teeth, 4 extractions and undiagnosed advanced gum problems. As such, she had missed out on claiming major dental on her private insurance for over 8 years (that is $8000 in rebates).
This was devastating for Mrs. Jones.
We sat down and created a 5-year dental plan, as she couldn’t afford to have all the treatment at once. This along with 6 monthly check-ups and changes in her diet helped her achieve the long term fix over a longer period, saving her $7500 plus in lost dental rebates and a reasonably good outcome was achieved.
5. Do Sleep Dentistry – All Under One Long Appointment (Saving $1500+ – with Medicare rebates)
Yes, you heard me right – Medicare rebates for general anesthetic work from 30-80%.
Some patients haven’t been to a dentist for a long time and are anxious and phobic as well. For them the thought of staying in the dental chair and keeping their mouth open while the dentists drills are almost like jumping off a cliff. We understand how traumatic that can be. With sleep dentistry, now you have to not worry at all as our in house specialist anaesthetists can put you to sleep and their fees are rebatable from Medicare up to 80%.
This also means that if everything needs to be done in one go, you can potentially save $1500 plus as the longer, you stay under anaesthetic, the larger the rebates will be.
Doing all treatments in one long appointment also helps the time-poor professionals and frequent travellers as it saves money by not having to take time off work and rescheduling travel and plans when you are at the dentist every 2-3 weeks.
6. Choose A Dentist With Interest-Free Payment Plans (Saving $500-$3000)
Dentists do dentistry and a good dental team helps patients with spreading costs of treatment over time. Very few dentists offer a true payment plan which doesn’t cost patients a dime. The add on value to dentists is that we get your business and your goodwill which helps us build our practice. Patients refer more friends and family to us which helps us grow and reduce our internal operating costs. The patients in turn get a truly interest free plan where they are paying the treatment off over 3-12 months without any interest saving them potentially $500-$3000 depending on the value of the treatment plan.
If you need dental treatment done for $5000. Healthy Smiles offers an 18-month payment plan, where you only pay only 20% at your first appointment and the balance at no interest over 18 months. This is only available at Healthy Smiles and we do this so our patients can have the best treatment without compromising their credit cards or their oral health.
7. Find A Dentist Who Offers Initial Free Consultations (Saving $120)
And a dentist who doesn’t charge again and again for minor problems and simple emergencies
It’s nothing worse than going to a dentist you don’t like and still have to fork out the $$$. Initial free consultations help you check out the practice and its beliefs and values. The dentist is your partner in your oral health. He/She is going to be with you for a long time (at least 5-10 years) They need to know you a band you need to know them and have some alignment as to what you would like to achieve from your dental goals. Is it just preventive care, do you want an old problem tackled or are you after a full smile makeover. The dentist you see should be non-judgemental and forward-thinking not blaming you for mistakes of the past.
A free consultation is the best way to achieve that.
You can book a dental appointment online with us or reach out to us on the below contact details.
Healthy Smiles Dental Group
Address: 152 Canterbury Road, Blackburn South, VIC 3130
Phone Number: 03 9877 2035