WATERCOOLER: Govt needs to take a bite out of dental bills

THEY are a vital resource for our survival and most of us try to take care of them as much as possible, but when you get a $4000 repair bill, you start to wonder who is really in charge.

The resource I am talking about is teeth. Without them, we cannot chew our food small enough for our digestive system to handle. And we need to eat in order to survive.

We can brush, floss, rinse, repeat as many times as we like, but if you have hereditarily bad teeth and are from a low to medium income household, you will more than likely find you will end up with gaps in your oral health care.

Paying for extras on your private health insurance, if you can afford private health insurance, doesn't necessarily help when the big dental quotes come in.




In 2012, I went to a dentist due to an ongoing tooth-ache. I walked out with a quote for over $2000 to fix 12 holes.

At the time, I didn't have private health and I couldn't afford $2000 of dental work. I booked in and got the cracked tooth repaired (the one giving me a toothache) and that was it. I haven't been back to a dentist until this week.

This week, I've walked in asking the dentist to check my teeth for damage that could get worse from me clenching my teeth when sleeping and to clean my teeth. (A problem I recently discovered and is causing me all kinds of problems)

I left with two quotes - one for about $2000 for fillings and clean and second one for $4000 for a root canal I might need on one of my molars.

No cleaning. Just quotes.

The dentist told me I didn't really have that many holes, but I did have a couple that require fillings.

So what happened between 2012 and December 2015 for there to be less holes, but one bad tooth that could send me bankrupt?

Rockhampton Regional Council took fluoride out of the water, so that isn't the reason for the holes fixing themselves.

Is it too expensive to have dental work done where you live?

This poll ended on 30 December 2015.

Absolutely, I have to save up before I go to the dentist - 60%

Not really, most of it is covered by my private health insurance - 10%

My dentist has never charged me too much, just a fair price - 9%

I no longer go to the dentist - 19%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

After much stressing and seeking advice from friends about the success rates of root canals (had heard some horror stories in the past), I did the only thing I could do - ring my private health provider and find out how much they would cover of the quotes, then redo my budget a couple of times to see if there was anyway I could afford to fix my teeth.

The verdict - there is no possible way I can afford the root canal so I'm booked in next week to either fill it or have it pulled, depending on what the dentist finds when they start drilling.

What I did find out in discussing root canals with my friends were interesting - if you can afford it, they do last, as long as you get the crown on it; you can survive without the tooth if you can't afford it; and different private health insurance providers have different levels of coverage for dental work - in other words, some pay 40% of costs, some pay 70% of costs.

At the end of the day, we all have rent/mortgages, electricity, food, fuel, cars, health insurance, regular health needs (chiropractic, massage, physiotherapy, etc) that all come at higher priorities than dental care as dental care is too costly for the average Joe or Jane to maintain.

Maybe it is time for the Federal Government to step up and help make oral health more affordable for Australians via covering more of the costs. We certainly can't expect private dentists to lower their prices when their equipment and materials cost them an arm and a leg.

Topics:  editors picks federal government opinion oral health teeth

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