Can I see what I’m going to pay at the dentist before my visit? Sometimes.
Most dentists don’t have a list of treatment prices (a fee schedule) available for patients. While they may have their reasons for not making these prices available, many patients still find the lack of information frustrating.
However, there are some other ways to find out what you will pay at your visit.
How to Find Out How Much Your Dental Visit Will Cost
1. Call your dentist before your visit and ask
Most dental administrative assistants and hygienists understand that dental treatment is expensive and that people don’t like to spend a lot of money on dental care. Ask your dentist how much your first visit will cost (or any visit after that). Your first dental visit at a new dentist (along with each subsequent routine visit) usually includes a cleaning, dental x-rays and a dental exam. Prices may vary depending on:
- the type of dentist you see (specialist or general dentist)
- how many x-rays you need
- the type of dental cleaning you need to get (some people need a deep cleaning, which costs more)
2. Ask your dentist if you can see the treatment plan costs before agreeing to treatment
You shouldn’t have to ask about treatment plan costs—most, if not all, dental offices give you this information—but don’t hesitate to ask if you need to. After you have a cleaning and x-rays, your dentist or dental hygienist will put together a treatment plan for follow-up work that is needed.
Typically, they’ll pull you aside to let you look over the treatment plan before agreeing to it. You can then take care of your treatment on that visit (if the dentist has the availability) or during a follow-up visit.
3. See our fee schedule and dental plan savings resource
We recently put together a resource that breaks down each dental visit by treatment and procedure with the prices (average price without a dental plan and average price with your dental plan). This information was pulled from our fee schedule. The average prices on our fee schedule are taken from an average of the 80th percentile of the 2017 NDAS Comprehensive Fee Report.
4. Follow the ADA. They release updated procedure costs each year.
The American Dental Association releases updated dental procedure costs each year. They’ve already released 18 new codes for 2018. These books may be a bit technical, as they’re primarily meant for dentists as they look to see how much they should charge for each procedure, but it is a place where you can see suggested procedure prices.
Why Doesn’t My Dentist List Prices on Their Website?
- It’s difficult to list accurate prices for each situation. Dentists can’t usually give exact prices when they don’t know the situation yet. We spent a lot of time working on our savings resource to give our members an understanding of what they can expect to pay, but these sample invoices can vary depending on treatment needed.
Here are a few examples:
- Cleaning vs. Deep Cleaning: You could come to your dentist’s office for a regular exam and cleaning, but while you’re there, your dentist sees the condition of your teeth and gums and decides to perform a deep cleaning. This cleaning costs more money.
- Number of Dental X-Rays: If you go to your dentist for an exam and report that you have a toothache, you might need an x-ray of the tooth to make sure there isn’t an underlying problem. Each individual x-ray costs money.
- Tooth Fillings: This is fairly common. You go to your dentist for a routine visit and cleaning and they find a few cavities that need to be filled. This is when your dentist typically recommends a treatment plan. You can usually elect to get the filling done right away or schedule a follow-up appointment. Fillings will be an additional cost.
- Dentists have to work with dental insurance companies. Every dentist has a price list that includes the procedures they perform, but so does every dental insurance company. When dentists work with these different insurance plans, the dental insurance company ends up setting the price through things like fee reductions and copays.
“In general, dental insurance companies use what is called a Usual, Customary and Reasonable (UCR) fee guide. The companies set their own price that they will allow for every dental procedure that they cover; it’s not based on what a dentist actually charges, but what the dental insurance company wants to cover. For example, your dentist may charge $80 for a dental cleaning, but the insurance company will only allow $60, because that is their set UCR fee. That leaves you with a $20 out-of-pocket expense.”
How Do Dentists Determine Their Prices
There are a few organizations that offer suggested pricing and data for dentists: the American Dental Association and the National Dental Advisory Service. But pricing essentially comes down to three things:
- Cost of the materials and equipment used
- Cost of the dental chair occupancy for the appointment
- Cost of the dentist’s time
And then, of course, there are salaries for dental staff, facility expenses, etc. We go into more details about the cost breakdown of a dental office in another blog post.
We know this subject can be confusing, but we hope this post was able to shed some light on the tricky question of how much you’ll pay at the dentist. Also, be sure to check out our resources that I mentioned above to get an idea of what you might expect to pay at the dentist with and without your dental discount plan.