You may have heard a lot about dental fees in the last few years, as it’s been a hot topic with the Alberta Dental Fee Guide being created. Alberta has the highest dental fees in the country, and the fee guide was created to give dental practices a framework to base their fees off of.
What is the Alberta Dental Fee Guide?
The Alberta Dental Fee Guide is a document that was created by the Alberta Dental Association & College outlining suggested pricing for dental codes.
The key word in Alberta Dental Fee Guide is “guide”. Dentists and dental clinics do not have to follow this pricing structure, and can ultimately charge whatever they like. Some practices have a higher overhead cost, therefor they need to charge above the guide in order to cover their expenses.
Over 1,600 codes are used in practices to describe the treatment and work being done by the dentist or dental hygienist. For example, one unit (15 minutes) of scaling (cleaning teeth) has its own code and price assigned to that. All dental practices use the same codes, but assign their own pricing to the codes at their individual practices. Insurance companies also use these codes in their policies to describe what the patient is covered for. The Alberta Dental Fee Guide lists suggested pricing for each of these codes for practices to base their pricing structure off.
Insurance companies and the Alberta Dental Fee Guide
Here’s the thing: not all insurance companies cover the same amount. Many base their prices off the Alberta Dental Fee Guide, but this is not the case for all insurance providers. Some insurance providers may be using a previous year’s fee guide, while a dental clinic has updated their fees to match the most recent fee guide.
If you aren’t sure what your insurance covers, you should ask your insurance company. This way, when you are looking at scheduling regular preventive care, you know what you will be covered for -- some plans cover more than two cleanings a year! Some only cover one…
At Citizen Dental Hygiene, we are happy to preauthorize your appointments before you come in so that we can get an estimate of what will be covered by your insurance compared to our fees. Preauthorizing means that we send them our planned treatment codes, and they contact us back with an estimate of what will be covered and what will not be. This does not charge to you insurance! Only once your appointment has been completed, we direct bill your insurance company and collect the amount owing from you.
Why does dental care cost what it does in Alberta?
There are many factors here.
For starters, just like a hospital, dentist are governed by the Health Professions Act. This means that dental clinics must adhere to strict regulatory standard to ensure a high standard of patient safety and care. There are many expenses that this creates, none of which is covered by Alberta Health Care: specialized and certified equipment, approved materials, sterilization and safety protocols, trained and licensed professional staff, external laboratory fees, and practice location.
Another factor is that wages are higher for well trained staff in Alberta. Dental hygienist and dental assistants are crucial in any dental practice, doing the bulk of the work and are highly trained. Their wages, on average, are much higher than any other province in Canada.
The Alberta Dental College & Association is working to lower fees for Albertans, but they are trying to be sure that they aren’t lowering the quality of care: it’s a delicate balance.
Make sure you’re getting the care you need
We attempt to be as transparent about our fees and treatment as possible at Citizen Dental Hygiene. In order to keep appointment costs lower for some patients, we can schedule you in for just a cleaning with our dental hygienist. Only if you have any concerns or it’s been a long time since you’ve been to a dentist will we recommend you also get a new patient exam with the dentist.
The Alberta Dental College & Association says the best way to reduce your dental care costs is to get regular cleanings with your dental hygienist. Preventative care leads to a healthier mouth and less risk of complications down the road!
Patients should shop around and pick the clinic they feel the most comfortable with. When choosing a dentist, or to go forward with a treatment plan, be sure to ask:
Why are they recommending the treatment options presented—what is/are the benefit/s to your oral/overall health?
Are there alternative treatment options available?
What are the implications of refusing or delaying treatment?
Is there anything you can change in your mouth care to prevent similar issues in the future?
What is required on my part to maintain the dental treatment recommended?