For most of us, a trip to the dentist is a necessary evil. But it’s hard to know how big a bite your next visit will take out of your bank account, as fees vary a lot from practice to practice. Unlike medical services covered by Medicare, which have prescribed fees, there are no standard fees for services provided by dentists or other dental professionals in Australia.
Dentistry is regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) through the Dental Board of Australia (DBA), which provides registration standards, codes, policies and guidelines. These standards only focus on quality of care and don’t extend to pricing or prescribe the components involved for each service. This means a patient can get 10 different treatment plans from 10 different dentists – and dentists can charge as they please.
Mind the gap
CHOICE conducted a shadow shop of 25 dentists across five capital cities, enquiring as a new patient about quotes for a check-up and clean. We found a significant variation in fees.
Prices also vary for what appears to be the same service at the same practice. Maria V told us the price for her six-monthly check-up, which lasts less than 30 minutes, can vary from $200 to $250.
Dentists’ prices depend on a range of factors, such as location, overheads, and differences in the clinical content, according to the ADA’s fee policy. This means costs for the same item number can vary because it may take longer to perform on some patients, dentists might use different techniques, or the degree of difficulty could vary. “A dentist charges what he or she thinks is appropriate for the service they provide, taking into account all their costs and the particular circumstances of each treatment,” says the ADA.