A staggering 62 per cent of Albertans reported limiting dental visits because of cost concerns. That is most Albertans skipping basic dental health care because of the price. That is a problem. If dental health is not maintained, complications can send patients to the emergency room at great public cost
So how did Alberta's prices get so out of line from those in the rest of the country?
Professional dental societies publish fee guides in most provinces to give dentists – who are primarily self-employed – a benchmark for what to charge their customers. The fee guides also encourage price competition, improve transparency and better inform patients. But the Alberta Dental Association and College (ADAC) stopped publishing its fee guide in 1997, deciding to leave pricing up to the free market. Critics believe this may have contributed to the current high cost of dental care in the province.
As a result of pressure from the government, the ADAC released a new fee guide this month in an attempt to improve the situation. It recommends a reduction in costs for dental procedures of 3 per cent across the board. Alberta's Health Minister summed it up when she said Albertans "deserve better."
The new fees are still too high for many Albertans. For example, the new guide recommends a price of $75.36 for a standard oral exam for a new patient, compared with the $43.10 suggested in British Columbia's fee guide.