SALT LAKE COUNTY — Despite visits to numerous dentists, and a mouthful of dental work, Paige Horne remained uncertain why certain dentists seemed more aggressive with treatment than others, and why there seemed to be such a wide range of costs.
“(I’ve had) eight root canals, I have three implants,” Horne said. “I just make like a $400 monthly payment to a dentist.”
She’s not alone in those questions. Choosing a dentist, and knowing you are paying a fair price, can take some homework.
Answers from Dentists
Dr. James Anderson, owner of Lakeview Dental, said dentists’ training and experience, along with the conditions inside someone’s mouth, can lead a dentist to choose a more aggressive treatment plan.
“Sometimes, if you’re not aggressive enough, you might miss it and it turns into an issue you should have caught,” Anderson said. “Sometimes the patient won’t trust us, and it’s there, and a year later we have to pull the tooth out because they didn’t trust us.”
Anderson said, however, if a dentist’s recommendation doesn’t feel right, there is nothing wrong with obtaining a second opinion.
“You tell them up front, 'I’d like to get a second opinion, but I’d like you to do it right,'” Anderson said.
Range of Costs
Searching online can make the process of finding a good dentist at a good price daunting.
A quick Google search of implant prices, for example, offers a wide range—anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $3,000.
Dr. Glenn Zeh, president of the Utah Dental Association for 2017-2018, said costs can vary widely because it is illegal under antitrust laws for dentists to compare prices.
“I for a fact don’t know what the dentist the very next door to me charges for a crown — I couldn’t tell you to this day,” Zeh said. “Dentists can’t compare fees.”
Zeh cautioned people against seeking out the lowest prices, because they can mean lower quality or less time spent with a dentist.
He said a good gauge to determine if a price is high is “if you talk to a neighbor and they say, ‘Wow, that’s way more than we paid.’”
Finding the Right Dentist for You
Ultimately, Anderson and Zeh acknowledged ‘word of mouth’ was generally one of the best ways to find a good dentist.
Anderson said patients should consider several factors, including whether they like the dentist, and whether the dentist explains treatments and the need for treatments well.
“Most dentists, really, here in our area are honest, and they’re not going to tell you something that doesn’t need to be done,” Anderson said.
Zeh also recommended consulting the American Dental Association website to find member dentists.
Horne also said a referral was a great idea to find a good dentist, especially for someone like herself who likely is facing a lot more dental work in the future.
“I think I’ll be doing dental work for the rest of my life,” Horne laughed. “There’s nothing in the world that hurts like tooth pain!”