In an age where Medicare offers no relief on dental treatment, there are many, many people out there who struggle to afford dentistry.  Dr. Helen, a Melbourne-based dentist whose expertise in dental phobias and implant surgery, knows these patients’ struggles all too well.  Luckily, with help and transparency, dental work can be managed. Dr. Helen wants to help put these fears to rest. Here are our most commonly-heard dental treatment financial woes and how to find affordable solutions.

Fear:  I have too much work that needs to be done—it’ll cost a fortune.

Dr. Helen says:

“Sometimes a fear of going to the dentist becomes a cyclical problem: You fear going to the dentist so you avoid them, your teeth deteriorate, and you need a dentist even more.  I have patients who have put off going to the dentist for various reasons, and when they come in, they often need a handful of costly treatments. Fillings and crowns can quickly add up.  Having a thousand dollars in dental work is overwhelming—but we can spread the treatment out over a longer period and work to their budget.  We can do critical work first, say, a pressing filling or a crown, and then move on to less-critical work, like implants, during another appointment down the road.  When we spread treatment out over time, the cost can be broken down into smaller, more manageable increments which can be less overwhelming.

It’s also worth noting we offer 0% interest rate payment plans for treatments up to $9,000.

It’s commonplace for patients to come in with multiple problems, but we can work to their weekly budget maximum: Say, $200.00 for the week or a fortnight, and then book them in for another appointment in a few weeks when finances allow it. ”

Fear: I’ve avoided the dentist for so long that anything I need done is going to be out of my budget, so I’ll just have to lose them all.

Dr. Helen says:

“I have patients who have come in to have all their teeth extracted because they believe their teeth are beyond repair.  Often, however, patients can actually keep their teeth with advances in dental technology.  Crowns over weak teeth, for instance, can be a permanent solution and one-time cost.  Again, the treatment can be spread out over time and payment can be broken into smaller increments, making it manageable, and getting their teeth back to a state that they can keep a healthy smile with routine check-ups.  Prevention of dental issues with regular maintenance is often vastly cheaper than treatment. “

Fear: Australian dentists are overcharging me; it’ll be cheaper to go overseas to get my treatment.

Dr. Helen says:

“Many people go overseas to have things like implants and veneers done and have satisfactory results.  It’s true that the cost of living in Australia is higher and price of dental treatment reflects that—we have to source materials, pay employees, maintain our offices, and fund education and training at Australian prices.  This is the cost of providing a high quality service with the unparalleled standard of care in Australia. So if you do your research and find a reputable clinic overseas, odds are, you’ll be able to get your treatment and a vacation for a similar price as having it done here.

But what if things go wrong?
Even if you choose the best clinic in the world overseas, the human body is a complicated thing. Also, the standard of care and medical education is not universal in all in all countries.   I’ve had patients who have had surgical incisions open on their flights home, implants reject, veneers crack, and root canal treatments get re-infected once they’ve returned home. These things can happen even with the best dentists in the world, overseas or not.  However, when complications arise and you can’t revisit the treating physician because they’re thousands of kilometres away, things can get costly and complicated, fast.  Sourcing the same materials to replace an implant, for instance, can be difficult if the materials were sourced in Thailand. Another example is that when an implant or a crown breaks, our lab repairs it for free. If they weren’t sourced here, the laboratory charges. The continuation of care means better service.

A great dentist will often work with you to treat complications that arose after they treated you, but treating complications from a procedure they didn’t perform is far more complicated and therefore, more expensive.

Going overseas is a calculated risk—everything may go well and you may save yourself money. But if it doesn’t, you’re looking at huge expense and danger to your health.”

Q: Every time I go to the doctor, I end up with surprise charges that I didn’t account for.

Dr. Helen says:

“Every time I have a new patient, I book a 1-hour consultation. Not only do I want to have a thorough exam and a chance to get to know my patient’s dental health goals, fears, and history, but I want to be able to give them every possible option for treatment.  Patient care, to me, means informing a patient of every option available to them, the cost, the risks, and the aesthetic and health outcome. I never want a patient to feel they were pushed into a decision for convenience or profit.

With every consultation, I give the patient a full written treatment plan with exact costs to expect for every option.  That way, when we commence with treatment, they have a record of costs to expect, and I honour it. No surprises.

In the end, my philosophy is this: Dental work comes with all sorts of anxieties—fear of pain, fear of losing their teeth, you name it.  Fear of cost shouldn’t be one of them.”