Dentists fail to fill in patients over cost of treatment plans

Dentists are failing to clearly explain to patients what the cost of their treatment will be, leaving cash-strapped consumers wary of having their teeth checked.

A report by health insurers, SimplyHealth, found that 34 per cent of Scots say they avoid going to the dentist because the costs are too high – and they do not understand in advance what they are going to be charged.

And Scottish dentists are reportedly the worst in the UK for failing to explain costs – with six in ten adults north of the Border saying they have not ever noticed that dental prices are explained to them or are clearly displayed in their dental practice, compared to less than half elsewhere.

Only 27 per cent of people said that during their check-ups they have been given a written treatment plan that included charges, while almost a quarter of patients said they do not believe what they are charged for dentistry treatment is good value for money.

“This means that a significant proportion of British adults may be neglecting their dental health because of the pressure they are feeling financially. This is a worrying statistic that may prove to have long term negative consequences for dental health in the UK,” said the report.

However, despite fears over charges, the availability of NHS dentistry is on the rise, according to the report.

Only 16 per cent of people say they have struggled to find an NHS dentist, compared to 29 per cent last year and 39 per cent in 2010.

“It is important that patients understand the dental treatment they are being advised to have and the costs involved if they are to value the care they receive,” said James Glover, spokesman for Simplyhealth.

“Patients should ask plenty of questions, so they are involved and able to make informed decisions about their dental health.

“The lack of information patients say they currently receive could be why 24 per cent of those surveyed said they don’t believe visiting the dentist is good value for money, and 12 per cent said it isn’t at all good value.

“Although health cash plans and dental plans can help people budget for their appointments it is clear that more could be done to ensure patients fully understand the care they receive.”

The survey also found that more than half of adults are worried that they will not be able to afford dental care in the future, due to more cost pressures.

However, despite their confusion over payment, Scots are happiest of anyone in the UK with the appearance of their teeth. A total of 12 per cent said they would not change a thing about them – 2 per cent more than the rest of Britain.

Case study

Paul Stevenson, 32, from Edinburgh, recently visited the dentist to have some work done and came out with a much larger than expected bill.

“When I went in, I was told that I would have one white filling at a cost of GBP55. In a previous visit I had had another done at the standard cost under the NHS, which would only cost me GBP10,” he said. “At the end of the treatment, I was given a total bill for GBP220. I queried it and they told me they’d done two fillings – not one – and said ‘sorry did we not make that clear?’. But even taking that into account, the amount they’d charged me didn’t add up.

“It was a really difficult situation – standing in a full reception with a numb mouth trying to get them to justify their charges. I eventually paid up and asked them to send me a copy of the bill, which they did – but this time it was for a totally different amount. I’m still trying to get to the bottom of it, but I’m really not happy about it. I’ve heard of plenty of people having similar problems.”

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