Cheat Dentist and How Preferred Provider Schemes Work

Yellow teeth

There is a growing trend these days for health funds to refer their members to so call ‘preferred’ providers or to their ‘own’ dentists in clinics owned by the health fund.

This is how these ‘schemes’ work: the dentist signs a contract with the health fund, agreeing to provide the services at a lower price and in exchange the health fund directs their members to this particular clinic.  So the dentist gets patients easier and the health fund pays out lower rebates for their members, win-win.  Sounds like a pretty sweet deal at first if you want cheap dentistry.

The only reason these particular dentists are ‘preferred’ by the health fund is that they are cheaper; they are NOT superior to other dentists in any way apart from lower price.  Health funds don’t check the registration, skills, experience, infection control standards, quality of products used in peoples mouths, whether the material and equipment are all TGA (Therapeutic Goods Australia) approved, qualifications, business practices, quality of dental treatment provided, training, attendance at professional development courses or compliance with regulations of the dentists they refer patients to.  They don’t care that perhaps the treatment could be performed, with less visit and to a higher standard some where else; yes you may pay more to see this other not ‘preferred’ dentist initially, but if you don’t need as many visits or as much treatment, you are automatically saving money there.  On paper these clinics appear cheaper, but we have found in our experience that is only the case in theory, the reality is the patient rarely saves money by going to these clinics.

Health funds are only concerned with saving themselves money by paying lower rebates to their members to satisfy shareholders and ensure they maintain their billion dollar profits, they are NOT concerned with your dental health and how long the treatment will last and the quality of the treatment provided.

Your dental health is of concern to your family dentist who is focused on ensuring you receive good dental care and maintain good dental health throughout your life.

So while the treatment may be cheap, if it doesn’t last very long or is of poor quality and needs to be replaced sooner are you really saving money?  The only people who benefit in this situation are the health funds, making billion dollar profits. The same insurers with large advertising budgets, spending your membership fees on celebrity endorsements and sponsoring high profile sporting teams.

If you think that all dentists are created equal and they vary only in price, I can say that as a dentist I know this is not the case at all.  There is a vast difference amongst dentists in terms of experience, qualifications, quality/ longevity of treatment provided, quality of equipment and products used and even communication and bedside manner.

Fixing teeth is kind of like building houses, cheap materials, inexperience and non compliance with industry standards, means things won’t last as long and things will break down and need replacing more often, costing more in the long term and quickly eroding any of the initial ‘savings’.

Dentistry is very expensive, I am not going to deny that, and there is no assistance with costs through Medicare.  The main reason is the HUGE cost of setting up a practice – fitout, sterilizer, dental chair (1 chair is $50000), xray machines, computers, dental equipment, materials are huge.  However if you want good infection control and a safe practice for patients and staff, this is what is needed. A dental practice is an operating theatre, but dentists don’t receive the Medicare subsidies and assistance that medical practitioners do.

The main issue in these health fund owned clinics is you rarely get to see the same dentist twice, like building a house, do you want a new and different builder every couple of weeks.  No two dentists do things the same, swapping and changing dentists means you are told different things and how can things be monitored and receive consistency of care if the dentist is no longer around.

What also concerns me as a dentist is that these clinics are not managed and run by Dentists.  To get a dental practice to run as it should, there is lot of knowledge and experience, particularly when it comes to infection control and compliance with regulations to ensure patient safety required. Dentists spend 5 years full time at university to learn these things and have to attend ongoing professional development to stay abreast of developments in this area.  How can someone with no experience in the dental field have this same level of knowledge?  In other countries such as the UK and America, it is illegal for dental practices to be managed by people who are not dentists, due to their concerns regarding these same issues.  I can tell you as a dentist, I don’t know anything about what is required to manage a plumbing company!

You choose which hairdresser you go to, your favourite coffee shop, or which store you buy your milk; so why is your opportunity to choose which dentist you go to being taken away by these health funds?

So next time your health fund directs you to their ‘preferred’ dentist, as they are ‘cheap’ please think about ‘but at what cost’. It also may be worthwhile asking them if they would be willing to attend that clinic themselves? While a cheap haircut will grow out, the effects of cheap dentistry is there for life. What actually matters most to your dental health is that you have a dentist that you can trust and feel comfortable, provides good care and you can communicate with.  Once you find a good one, stick with them!

You know teeth are important and dental problems don’t ever get better with time.  Letting things go, means that when you do get the problem addressed, it is more complicated and expensive to fix, if it is still fixable at all!

We don’t recommend unnecessary or over treatment and treat our patients as we would our family or friends.

If you are looking for a Dentist in Mackay, why not give us a call today at Debra Brown Dental on 49 57 59 57.

Contact us or book your dentist appointment now.

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