Dentistry in Australia is provided mostly in private dental practice. Our public health system cannot cater for the demands of even the most disadvantaged parts of our society. Partly, this is due to the fact that dental disease is a chronic disease that most people suffer from and with an ageing population, this demand is on a steady increase, yet government funds are in decline. The other reasons why public dental clinics cannot provide their services to more people may also be the high complexity and high cost of running efficient dental clinics. Dental care is, therefore, left to the private sector, where the cost of running a dental clinic is incurred by the private owner. These practices (and their owners- be it private individuals or corporations), have duties and responsibilities to their customers, their employees and their shareholders. They determine their fees based purely on these responsibilities and their ethical duties to continue to provide this essential health service, with little or no help from the government.
Dental practices are extremely expensive to run as they have notoriously high overheads:
- Highly sophisticated, specialised materials and equipment used in dental practices are very expensive and need updating on a regular basis to ensure quality care
- Retail- or hospitality-like opening hours mean that staff need to be well looked after to remain motivated and productive
- Income of dental practices is highly unpredictable and can be dependant on the seasons, days of week, their client base’s socio-economic make up, overall state of the economy, availability of disposable income and that popular phenomenon “consumer confidence”
- Dental visits can last a relatively long time, compared to other health consultations (think about your last visit to your GP or chiropractor) and they usually involve two people: a dentist and a nurse, servicing one patient.
Even if high quality dental care seems completely out of reach, there is hope. There are things you can implement in your daily life which can help you afford best quality dental care, whilst ensuring that you minimise any need for extensive treatment. You don’t need to ‘shop around’ for the cheapest dentist or wait until a painful problem appears, to seek advice or treatment. In this series of articles, we will give you some advice on how to take responsibility for your family’s dental care while keeping your bills and your dental problems at a minimum, which almost anyone can afford.
Melbourne’s “The Age” newspaper, recently published this opinion piece by Dr Deborah Cole, CEO of Dental Health Services Victoria which summarises the current situation in public health when it comes to dentistry. If you wish to know more about what “The Dentist at 70 Pitt Street” do for our clients to help with their dental expenses, you can contact us on (02) 92326367.