Survey finds some dentists charge twice as much for a check up Picture Getty Images.
Survey finds some dentists charge twice as much for a check up Picture Getty Images.

How Queenslanders are getting ripped off on dental care

EXCLUSIVE

Families are paying twice as much as they need to for a dental check up.

A special investigation into dental fees found a stunning variation in costs, contributing to a national health crisis where two million Australians required dental care last year but couldn't afford it.

In all, more than 1500 dental clinics were surveyed in two states and found the average cost of a dental check-up for those without health cover is $185.

However, some dental clinics are providing a check-up and clean for as little as $100.

 

 

Law student and Mind the G ap founder James Gillespie cold called dental clinics to price fees for a routine check-up.

Some clinics are charging over $260 for the service while others charge as little as $100, he said.

 

In southeast Queensland, the survey found the most expensive suburbs in Brisbane for a check-up and clean were in south Brisbane.

Both Annerley and Sunnybank have average check-up and clean costs above $230.

The least expensive suburb was Oxley where the average charge was $150.25.

Almost all dentists recommend six-monthly visits so the average yearly cost of the most basic preventive dental care for an adult is $371.36, Mr Gillespie said.

This could be almost cut in half if people sought out cheaper providers.

Very few patients will know they could slash their dental fees by requesting a check-up and clean without fluoride and X-rays.

When these are included it could push the cost of a check-up from an average $185 to over $308, he said.

A recent report by former health department chief and health economist Stephen Duckett for the Grattan Institute, found two million Australians who required dental care last year couldn't afford it.

 

 

There are long waiting lists for public dental care. Picture: iStock.
There are long waiting lists for public dental care. Picture: iStock.

 

One in five Australians who did see a dentist then couldn't afford the follow-up treatment recommended as a result of their check up, his study found.

A News Corp investigation earlier this year found there are more than 376,000 Australians waiting up to six years for treatment in the public dental system and 70,000 are admitted to hospital for dental care each year.

Oral health conditions can contribute to other health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.

An oversupply of dentists and new technology is driving major disruption in the dental industry and consumers can benefit from shopping around.

Discount dental chains are now providing a check-up and clean, a filling, a basic tooth extraction, pain relief or take-home tooth whitening services for the set $99 price for each service.

 

Leena Yousif takes advantage of the capped price services at Swift Q Dental Care under the watchful eye of dentist Nitika Bhat. Picture: Toby Zerna
Leena Yousif takes advantage of the capped price services at Swift Q Dental Care under the watchful eye of dentist Nitika Bhat. Picture: Toby Zerna

 

The fees are so low its making health fund extras cover redundant, the cheapest extras cover is around $328 a year, three times the cost of a cheaper dental check up.

The Australian Dental Association says health fund benefits for dental care have not increased for years and families could consider setting up a health savings account for dental cover rather than buy extras cover.

Many families are also unaware children are eligible for $1000 worth of free dental care under the government's child dental scheme if their family receives the Family Tax Benefit.

"By law the ACCC does not allow the ADA to set or recommend fees for dental treatment," Australian Dental Association president Dr Carmelo Bonanno said.

However, an annual fee survey conducted by the association shows the mean fee for a basic dental check-up is $68.02, an increase of just 0.3 per cent on the previous year, well below the inflation rate.