Guide to choosing dental care

Something's rotten in the state of Australia's health - our teeth.
 
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  • Updated:12 Jun 2007
 

02.Cost comparison

Varying costs

As you can see from the table, below, there’s a wide cost range for most item numbers. Charges vary for many reasons, including the surgery overheads, the expertise of the practitioner and the time it takes. Even a single item number can be charged differently by the same dentist: a filling on one surface may be particularly large or hard to access, for example, and require more time; or if you’re having several fillings done at once there may be a discount (because it takes less time than doing each as a single filling).

The best way to avoid high dental charges is to look after your teeth: brush twice daily, floss, and go for regular check-ups.

What does a ‘check-up and clean’ cost?

If you add the price of a check-up (item 011 for a first visit, or 012 for a subsequent visit) and clean (114), you’re looking at an average of $119.79 or $123.26.

However, you’re also likely to get a couple of x-rays (2 x 022 = $70.46) if you haven’t had them in the last couple of years, and fluoride treatment (121 = $27.96), taking the total cost to around $220.

 

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Looking for a better deal?

If you’re looking for a new dentist, ring ahead and get some prices for a check-up and clean. If the receptionist doesn’t offer information about x-rays and fluoride, ask if they’re included. How does that compare with the average $220?

If you’re concerned you’ve been quoted a high price for dental work, check the table to see where it lies in the range. You may find it’s a fair price.

If you have some expensive work that needs doing, it may pay to shop around. If you have a written quote with item numbers, ask the dentist (or receptionist) how much they’d charge for the same work. How does it compare with the average? Where does it lie in the range?
Costs of some common dental procedures

Item number Procedure Average charge Range ($)
Diagnostic and preventative
011 Comprehensive oral exam 45.39 31.00–70.00
012 Periodic oral exam 41.92 29.01–60.00
022 Single x-ray 35.23 25.00–47.69
111 Removal of plaque 43.51 25.00–70.00
114 Scale and clean 77.87 51.46–116.81
121 Fluoride 27.96 17.00–45.00
161 Fissure sealing (per tooth) 41.65 26.00–65.97
Surgical
311 Extraction 112.01 70.00–182.97
Restorative (including fillings)
531 Adhesive restoration — 1 surface, posterior 106.13 68.50–160.00
532 Adhesive restoration — 2 surfaces, posterior 136.42 90.00–202.50
533 Adhesive restoration — 3 + surfaces, posterior 164 105.00–252.87
577 Cusp capping, per cusp 27.19 15.05–49.76
Endodontics
415 & 417 Root canal preparation and filling 394.46 222.80–598.89
Prosthodontic
615 Full crown 1105.35 787.12–1600.00
(2x) 615 + 643 Bridge with 2 full crowns (veneered) and 1 pontic (replacement tooth) 3046.30 (A) 1957.40–4681.00 (A)
727 + (6x) 733 Partial maxillary (upper jaw) denture — cast metal framework with 6 teeth 1109.05 (A) 638.40–1922.20 (A)
 

 

Table notes

The average charge is based on thousands of claims processed nationally in 2006 by private health insurance company HCF, which compiles this data for its members.

The range covers the middle 90% of claims, excluding extremely high (the most expensive 5% of cases) and extremely low (the cheapest 5% of cases) prices charged.

(A) 2005 figures. The average increase in dental service costs from 2005 to 2006 was 3.21%.