The Cost of Dental Implants in Melbourne
Let’s be real, dental implants aren’t cheap. Many people want them. After all, no one wants teeth floating around their mouth and falling out at the worst of times. We live in an incredible age of technology. To think that we can stick a metal screw into a jaw and have it take, in my mind is still a miracle. It never ceases to amaze me that this is even possible. Nevertheless, we’ve had the technology since the 70s. With all it’s benefits, this treatment comes at a cost. The price of a dental implant in Australia is approximately $2,800 and $5,500.
If you’ve decided that dental implants are for you. I’m sure the burning question is – How much do dental implants cost in Melbourne? Well, although I’ve just answered that one, your decision shouldn’t be based on cost alone. In this article, I will breakdown the costs of implants and give you some ideas and advice on making the best decision for you.
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Dental implants can be more cost-effective than a denture
While the immediate cost of a dental implant is higher than a denture, dentures aren’t as durable. In the long run, you will end up replacing your denture several times, ultimately reaching if not exceeding the cost of implants. I can’t guarantee that an implant is forever, but for many people, it can be. Both dentures and implants require maintenance, so there will be future costs associated, as with natural teeth. In the overall scheme of things, would you rather pay a higher fee and be comfortable with an implant or a lower fee and struggle with a denture for years, to only end up paying for implants anyway? When you are weighing up between an implant, a denture or a bridge, it’s worth considering that a payment plan may be available to ease the burden of a lump sum payment, ask your dentist.
The brand of implants doesn’t influence the cost – much
There are over 750 brands of dental implants. Some are cheaper than others, but essentially the difference in componentry between a cheap and an expensive implant is only a few hundred dollars. Perhaps a few thousand dollars if we are talking about “All on 4” full mouth implants. Most well-known brands produce great implants, so opting for the most expensive brand doesn’t always justify the cost. The difference in treatment fees between dental surgeons is not explained by the brand they use, but rather by other factors.
Supply vs Demand
The supply vs demand equation is simple. If the public demands cheap, the market responds by producing cheap. Cheap labour, cheaper materials and cheaper processes in order to meet the demand. To offer cheap products, production costs need to be reduced.
The artificial tooth which is attached to the implant screw imbedded in the jawbone is called a crown. They are expensive to manufacture and are often made overseas to reduce costs. A locally-based laboratory typically organises this and it seems to work well, and technicians overseas may be equally skilled, so it makes sense to cut costs this way. However, my experience has been that if a crown doesn’t fit in the mouth and needs to be adjusted, support from larger offshore producers can be limited, making adjustments challenging. Working with a small, Australian-based laboratory that cares about its reputation and is willing to provide a consistently high standard of work, is the only way to produce reliable results. Slight discrepancies and inaccuracies in the fit of a crown are common and may require several adjustments. However, a dentist and a laboratory with tight profit margins are unlikely to readily send work back and forth to get the fit perfect. You would expect perfection as a patient, regardless of what you are paying, right? Adjustments and remakes are costly. A consistently good outcome is achieved through a close working relationship between a dentist and a technician, but should they be prepared to absorb all of the cost? When considering how much you want to pay, you need to decide how important is the quality of work to you, the patient is it second to none?
I’ve seen the blogs suggesting that the only difference between a lower fee for an implant ($2,800) and a higher fee ($5,000) is how much a dentist decides they want to charge. They point out that the difference in the cost of componentry between implant brands is not significant. Whilst the latter might be true in some cases, these bloggers also realise that the difference might be intangible and difficult to explain to the consumer, who might not be familiar with the dental implants process. So, I’d like to touch on a few of the key factors affecting the price of implants.
Quality of the make.
I’ve already discussed how reducing the cost of manufacturing can affect the final outcome. However, evaluating the cost of quality is difficult. I can’t quantify and prove this to you, I can only speak from my experience and offer some explanation of the factors that influence quality and cost.
A few years ago, I used a laboratory here in Melbourne, and had a great relationship with the technician who produced amazing work for us. Then, all of a sudden, the new crowns started breaking. I called the laboratory, only to find out that the technician had left, and another technician had taken over. Different technicians – different work – different outcome! It’s not even about the quality of the materials but rather directly related to the knowledge and experience of the technician handling those materials. That’s why skill and experience is so important.
The experience of the dentist.
It seems self-explanatory that when you are choosing a surgeon, experience and integrity are paramount, but many people who undergo implant surgery fail to consider this. No two dentists are the same, the skill of a dentist isn’t the only factor but it’s an important one.
The dilemma of choosing a cheaper vs an expensive implant brand
Relax! I suggest that in this situation it’s not worth spending the extra dollars in spite of what the enticing online marketing campaign is telling you. Save your hard-earned cash for a better cause. I tell my patients that I am happy to use any TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) approved brand of implant. After all, what’s the benefit of spending more, if the quality and performance are the same? I don’t care! You decide!
You’ve got enough things to worry about so let me help you with what’s important:
- That the brand the dentist chooses is freely available in Australia, so if a part breaks it can easily be sourced and replaced. This might seem trivial, but this is the very reason why people who have implants done overseas, spend thousands here in Australia in repair costs trying to find compatible parts.
- Using genuine parts. This is a little more costly for the dentist but will save you in the long run. Some dentists and laboratories use compatible parts to save a few dollars. In other word’s ‘knock-offs’. An example of this might be an implant that has fittings and parts compatible with another well-known brand like Straumann, MIS, Astra, Nobel Biocare. On the surface, the parts appear to fit but on a microscopic level, they might not fit as snugly as they should. This can encourage bacteria to grow in the tiny gaps (dental nerds call this process “microleakage”). This could be detrimental to the long term success of an implant.
- The implant is suitable in size and design for your individual situation. I’ve already said that the brand doesn’t matter but the implant size and design do matter. It has to fit the space in your jaw well and satisfy the biological requirements for long term success.
- Experience and skill of the dentist. Again. I don’t care how much the dentist charges, what I care about is their experience… it matters! Everyone has to start somewhere but if you want a good outcome for your money, at least consider this.
How popular is the dentist?
These days, the popularity of a dental practice is often determined by the quality of marketing and the size of the marketing budget, than the actual skill of the dentist. I guess it’s always been that way with other industries, but before dentists were allowed to advertise, you’d get a recommendation from a family or a friend. These days, you are only seen online if you have a great marketing team. What I’m getting at is that there are many great dentists out there who charge a reasonable fee yet may not have their name plastered all over the internet nor have 400 google reviews. Ask your family and friends for recommendations. They are often the greatest source of advice.
About 10 years ago, I was getting so many enquiries about Lumiveneers and Zoom whitening, not because these brands are the best but because they mounted great marketing campaigns to the public. As it turns out, neither Lumiveneers nor Zoom whitening proved to be successful.
More questions to ask when choosing a dentist:
You will require monthly follow-up reviews to ensure healing is taking place, are these visits included in the fee?
If there are any complications, will they be dealt with there and then to safeguard successful integration of an implant?
If there is a complication, is the dentist prepared to treat you at no or minimal fee to help you?
How do bone and gum grafting influence the cost?
If it’s been a while since you lost a tooth, there is a chance that the jawbone has shrunk, bone will need to be regenerated before an implant can be successfully placed. This needs to be taken into account as the fee for a bone graft can exceed the cost of an implant. The cost of a bone can be in the vicinity of $3000, so it’s important to know if a bone graft is required and if it is included in the fee.
Are Dental implants subsidised by Medicare?
Dental care would be so much cheaper if it was subsidised, unfortunately this is not the case, obviously making dental care harder to afford. Notwithstanding these limitations, I’ve seen many of my patients manage extensive treatment plans in small bites, either spreading it over a period of time or taking out a payment plan. Despite what you might think, your financial situation is not hopeless, and there may be a solution that can be tailored to your situation. There’s no harm in asking.
Does private health cover help?
If you already have a private cover for extras which includes surgery and major dental, you will get something back, but don’t rely too much on it. Most insurance funds aren’t overly generous and will pay in the vicinity of $500 – $1500. If you are thinking of taking out a new cover, consider that you will need to wait 12 months before you’re eligible for surgery. You need to ask yourself; would the rebate exceed the premium I’ve paid for the last 12 months?
Most implant practices offer payment plans with various terms. Obviously, it’s worth discussing the terms with your dentist and finding the most cost-effective option. Some of the common dental finance companies are:
The cost of Implants – materials and labour.
This might be of little interest to you, but the cost of an implant consists of two major parts:
- Componentry and lab fees. This would range from $1,000 – $2,000 depending on the brand of the implant.
- Staff wages, insurance cost, PPE (personal protective equipment), sterilisation costs, dentist’s education, marketing costs, rent and the rest of the overheads. This forms the other $2,000 – $2,500.
So dental implants aren’t that cheap to provide when you consider the time spent and the equipment expenses; profits are moderate.
The old saying, “You get what you pay for” could not be any truer. Your priority should be to find a respectable and knowledgeable dentist who will take the time to educate you and sincerely cares for the outcome. He or she would be prepared to walk away from a job, rather than compromise on quality. If they happen to charge a reasonable fee, that’s a win-win, and if they charge a higher than average fee, will a few hundred-dollars difference matter to you in the long run if the job is done well? It’s up to you to decide.
If we look at an analogy of a car. You get the base model price but if you want headlight protectors, floor mats, roof racks, they are all additional expenses. In the dental world, the extras would translate to a reliable result. If you want a good outcome, you have to buy quality parts, careful planning, expertly surgical execution and caring time of a perfectionist. Alternatively, you go for the base model and hope for the best.
Personally, I don’t want you coming back with problems as it’s costly for me to try to fix them. It’s in my interest to work hard to source high-quality parts and work with skilled and knowledgeable technicians to produce a reliable and lasting outcome.
My advice, whatever it is worth, is there to help you navigate through the dental world of jargon, variables and unknowns. But at the end of the day, consider recommendations from your family and friends, meet with different dentists and find a surgeon that you feel confident and comfortable with… and listen to your gut feeling.