Dentists: Many Patients Resentful over the Cost of Dental Implants

Dental implantsA recent New York Times article compared dental implants to bridges, concluding that “dental implants are the treatment of choice” for missing teeth.

The reader comments on this story are a fascinating look at how the public views dental care.

A lot of those whose commented expressed resentment over the high cost of dental implants, and frequently explained how it was not their fault that they needed implant dentistry.

Responses tended to fall in one of these major categories:

  1. “Dentists charge too much for implants.”
  2. “Dental insurance ought to cover implants.”
  3. “I love my dental implants, so everyone should get them.”
  4. “I had a bad experience, so everyone else should watch out.”
  5. “Try going to a dental school or foreign country to save money.”

First, here’s a quick look at the New York Times article:

“In an overwhelming majority of cases, implants to replace lost teeth are by far the best long-term solution for maintaining a healthy mouth. Also, because they rarely need to be replaced, in the long run they are more economical than bridges.

“Bridges are not the standard of care anymore,” Dr. Lawrence J. Kessler, a periodontist and associate professor of surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine, told me in an interview. “For most people who lose teeth, implants are the treatment of choice.”

The article continues:

“About half a million implants are placed each year in this country. On average, the total cost of an implant to replace a single tooth is $3,500 to $4,000 (more if other procedures are required), or about one-third more than the cost of a bridge. But while bridges have an average life span of 10 years, an implant can last a lifetime.”

I know it’s not exactly “breaking news” for dentists, but the good stuff is in the NY Times blog section where people post their responses.

And here’s what the people have to say about implants! I’ve broken the comments up by topic.

Patients get angry at dental insurance for not being the same as health insurance…

  • “It’s really expensive, and I resent that my dental ‘insurance’ doesn’t pay for it.”
  • “The sad fact that dental insurance plans still don’t cover implants means that as a practical matter this solution is beyond the reach of the vast majority of those who could benefit from them.”

Insurance companies are a common enemy…

  • “The pathetic realities leading to my stopgap measures are primarily twofold. One, the insurance industry still considers implants as “experimental,” despite the fact that they have been widely used now for over 25 years. Two, the dental insurance industry (and perhaps the ADA as well) has successfully managed to keep itself out of the current healthcare debate and reform efforts and, thus, will preserve its power to cover what it wants and limit that coverage to barely tolerable minimums. “

Patient attitudes towards dental fees

  • “I recently had a molar implant placed at a cost of $2,000 with the final abutment and crown to add another $1400 to $1,600 to the cost. I noted the dentist earlier commented on the expense of parts. It is my understanding that the cost of the implant was in the neighborhood of $300 to $500 according to the manufacturer’s website. It took the dentist less than an hour to do the procedure. To me, $2,000 is a handsome fee considering.”
  • “To the person complaining about fees- you pay for the dentist’s time, skill, care and judgment, not an item off the shelf. The dentist didn’t get the skills by purchasing knowledge and skill pills off the shelf. If you are unhappy with the dentist go find one that makes you happy. Having no concept of ALL the costs incurred by the dentist, you’d be ashamed of complaining about the wonderful dentistry you received. “

Some assert it’s an expense worth prioritizing…

  • “It is really unfortunate that no dental insurance will cover any of the costs, but it is paramount that as you enter your senior years (I am 63) you are able to chew and eat healthy foods comfortably. Most dentists will come up with repayment terms that are manageable. I say figure out a way to get the implants if you need them.”
  • “First of all, dental insurance isn’t medical insurance. If you are lucky to have dental insurance, it’s more like having a coupon for general services like cleanings and fillings. Cost of dental implants over your lifetime is minimal.”

Failed bridges make good implant prospects…

  • “I have one bridge that’s failed twice (and, Dr. Klein my dental hygiene is fine) in the span of 5 years. IMHO, it’s been nothing but trouble and I deeply regret getting it. Had I known about implants, that’s the way I would have gone and the next time it fails (because it will again, the same reason there was decay there to begin with is the same reason it fails), I’m going to ask about implants (although it might take 3 to rectify the situation).”

Some wonder if root canals are even worth it…

  • “I have no implants but I suspect I will be needing some root canal work done soon. Having gone through, and paid mightily for, even with insurance, one root canal + porcelain cap + replacement cap, I am seriously considering skipping the whole thing and requesting the dentist fit me with an implant. It seems more cost efficient in the end. However, my dentist does not agree this is a good idea. So my question is, is my dentist dissuading me because it will affect her bottom line? will implants put a lot of dental offices out of business? no more cavities, no root canals, no more replacement caps… “

Some like to take a Mexican dental vacation

  • “I go to Tijuana, Mexico for expensive dental work. A crown costs $150. My dentista wanted to put in a bridge, which would have cost $450. Implants are $895 each I believe. Crowns normally take five business days. Only one dentista I talked to offered same day service. I don’t know the time frame for implants or if a return trip would be needed. I was told in Sacramento that many Californians fly to Mexico City for dental work.  “

Oral health seems a part of overall health…

  • “It’s high time our medical system realized that teeth are vital to health and should be considered a vital part of health care.”
  • “Regarding the insurance issue, my question is: who ever decided that the health of your oral cavity has nothing to do with the health of the rest of your body? … It is disgusting to me that the insurance industry will cover treatment for, say, erectile dysfunction, but will not cover dental treatment necessary for a young child to eat properly.”

Some examined the economics of dental insurance…

  • “Dental insurance is nothing but a rip off, especially for single people. The premiums were higher than the cost of my two cleanings a year. I determined that I actually paid more in premiums than any coverage would ever pay for any dental procedure that I could ever have done. And not only did the insurance not cover the implant, it didn’t even cover a portion of the crown that followed the implant.”
  • “To the person asking for reasons dental insurance doesn’t cover implants, the answer is simple…you are getting what the person who is paying for your policy paid for…or didn’t pay for. There are dental plans available that cover dental implants, as well as ones that have higher calendar maximums, and are quite generous. Obviously, they cost a lot more than a basic plan, so few employers can afford to, or elect to purchase such plans. There are plenty of reasons to not like insurance companies, but blaming them for not covering something is like renting a studio apartment and complaining that the landlord hasn’t provided you with extra bedrooms.”
  • “Because there is no insurance reimbursement fee for this type of work, dentists can charge whatever they believe the market will bear. On the other hand, if implants were covered, then dentists would have to charge the amount covered by insurance, plus possibly a certain percentage more. Otherwise, that dentist will lose patients to other dentists who charge the insurance rates (or slightly over those rates). There is no price control with respect to implants.”

It is different elsewhere…

  • “In western Europe, dental insurance is included in all medical insurance. “
  • “In Australia for suitable patients, implants are done in hospital on the public purse (ie free to the patient).”

This guy’s got a screw loose

  • “I had an implant installed. It had to be re-tightened at one point. It’s now in my medical records that I have a screw loose in my head. That medical fact may come in handy some day.”

Read the New York Times article or read the NY Times blog comments

About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.

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