Is Dentistry Expensive?
Suggestions to make Quality Dentistry Affordable to Public
This article explores why dentistry can be expensive in general and the steps we can take, as a nation, government and institutions included, to make quality dentistry affordable for the masses.
There could be a multitude of reasons why dentistry can be a costly affair for the average person in India and across the world. Let us analyse the most important ones here.
- Non-availability of Dental Materials Locally: Many important dental supplies are imported after paying of taxes which can be on the higher side. This impacts practitioner costs and charges. A solution would be for India to go for local manufacturing at global quality standards, reducing dentist overheads. This is not impossible. Same holds good for countries where this situation is true.
- Dentists upgrade skills frequently: There is always a premium associated with expertise. Dentists, like regular professionals, have to keep updating themselves and their skillsets through high-priced coaching sessions and classes. This may reflect in their charges. However, this makes them well-equipped to handle any dental emergency or situation at hand. It is always safer to seek treatment with those that are upskilling themselves regularly. This is particularly true of specialists. If not, they are not doing a great service and need to be approached with caution.
- Dentistry relies on expensive materials: Dental materials do not always come cheap. Those that are easy on pockets need not be the best ones available in the market. This means that the dentist sometimes has to cover his costs through raised prices. This is specifically true of materials that are imported from other countries through companies based in India or even directly by dentists. A solution as mentioned would be local manufacturing.
- Clinic Overheads: Dental clinics are often run individually and these doctors spend out of their own pockets to purchase quality instruments, infrastructure and monthly overheads other than these, which include rent, salaries and similar expenditure. They also pay the labs for development of crowns, dentures and materials such as bridges and such prosthetics can be expensive based on their quality.
- Patients who avoid dentists because of the fear of pain: People suffering from dental issues but paranoid/ anxious about possible pain are usually responsible for the increase in the cost of procedures, primarily due to the delays.
- Complex Procedures: Complex treatments such as implant surgeries can be expensive unless they are truly warranted. Whitening procedures and cleaning and root canal procedures such as those that are complex such as those with curved nature of the canals and similarly those with calcifications inside canals can be difficult, lead to more instrument usage (due to breakage and stress of files used) and hence command higher prices. These kind of procedures also lead to more material usage. This adds to the overall cost.
Oral Health: Connection to Overall Health
We might dismiss oral health as lesser in magnitude when compared to other systems of health management, but the truth could not be more different. Most are not aware that oral health is often the guardian of overall health and is a sharp indicator to the same. For example, a simple building up of plaque or tartar in teeth can look harmless, but can lead to complications to health later on. This is because of the action of bacteria called Streptococcus Anginosus often present in plaque and can cause something known as Infective Endocarditis that affects the heart valve. It is an extremely rare situation (this was explained to me by my colleague and dental practitioner) but more commonly can cause respiratory and throat related infections to the human body.
Similarly, extractions can seem like they do not matter, but can lead to chronic neck, health and orofacial pain or even loss of balance while walking (vertigo). Loss of teeth can also lead to overall lessening of the quality of life. This is because we lose to a great extent, our ability to speak with clarity or eat or smile properly, leading to loss of self-confidence.
- Regular Check-ups: An important step to be taken from the patient side to avoid dental costs from escalating is to visit the dentist regularly for check-ups. Last-minute treatments can be expensive as the situation may have crossed limits of simple treatment modes. Those who fear pain can research more about dentists specializing in pain-free dentistry or those who adopt practices that guarantee a 100% pain-free treatment experience. <Check Here>
- Dental Health Awareness Programs: The government can also take a few significant steps to ensure affordable dentistry. These steps will be a precursor to helping dental practitioners bring down costs without compromising on treatment quality at any given point of time. One such step would be by encouraging the public to appear for dental check-ups regularly. These visits need to be established as crucial for maintaining public health. The government can also set key milestones for the public to complete their check-up at public health centres or medical institutions or at the closest dental clinics.
- Insurance: Institutions offering insurance coverage for cost-intensive dental treatments such as surgeries or procedures with cost implications are not operational in India presently. Some that offer coverage offer only minimum of not more than ₹5,000 for selected treatments. A possible solution is to offer treatment coverage that includes cost-intensive procedures so that people are not intimidated by the spend possibilities.
- Easy Financing Options: Healthcare financing companies can offer easy finance options for patients and these companies can co-operate with dental clinics for the purpose. Taking some of the immediate payment burden off the shoulders of patients can be a big help.
- Membership Options at Clinics: For those who have some dental issues, it would help to offer membership options that are refundable at the end of the year for payments that are not utilized or they can be carried forward to the next year if the patient chooses to do so.
- Pain-free Dentistry: A 100% pain-free dental treatment experience is now possible with help from technology (but this adds to the overall patient expenses) or through dentists whose skills do away with such expensive equipment. There are a few dentists globally who do not use any such equipment, yet can conduct 100% pain-free dental treatment using only techniques. See how this can be achieved. <Video>
- Tele-dentistry: Tele-dentistry is another option that can help reduce unnecessary costs for dental patients. Doctors can assess the treatment process or whether it is immediate, avoiding unessential visits to the clinic. This is particularly true of patients stuck while travelling or those that reside in rural or semi-urban localities.
Dental care is not something to be relegated to the backburner after one runs out of all options. Also, from the administration side, it might be imperative to introduce payment options such as insurance and easy finance to help patients. 100% pain-free dental treatment methods need to be explored and those practicing such forms of dentistry encouraged. This is crucial as people often put off dental clinic visits due to anxiety related to pain. The government must take steps to encourage people to take dental check ups at the right time, so that ignored oral health does not lead to complications in the overall health of citizens. To say not the least, dental treatment costs are the cheapest in India when compared to other nations, something that the ever expanding dental vacation trends will vouch for.
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