Discussing cost & treatment options

How to discuss cost and treatment options with your dentist

Your tooth hurts, so you visit a dentist. End of discussion, right? Actually, the dialogue has just begun. Developing a frank and open relationship with your dentist may be one of the most important things you can do for your oral health.

"Both patient and dentist have a responsibility to open the lines of communication from the first examination," says Kenneth Sutherland, DDS, a Delta Dental dentist consultant. "You should begin by fully disclosing your dental history with the dentist and any prior medical problems. And if you're dental phobic, dentists like to know that too," says Dr. Sutherland.

The dentist should explain the pros and cons of each treatment option – even the consequences of doing nothing. A toothache, for example, might be a cavity that can be solved with a simple filling. So, a discussion about the types of fillings and the cost for each is in order. But if the toothache is a symptom of something more serious, options could range from root canal therapy to removing the tooth and replacing it with a removable partial denture, fixed bridge or implant.

Dentists also should describe the cost of each procedure, as well as the longevity of a treatment versus its aesthetics. For example, while amalgam fillings are considered to be the best option in terms of longevity, a resin filling is sometimes considered a more aesthetically pleasing option on the front teeth. Depending on your dental benefits, these two options could have quite different out-of-pocket costs for you.

You can help facilitate discussion of costs with your dentist by reviewing your dental benefits before your visit. To help determine in advance how much your out-of-pocket cost will be, Delta Dental offers a free service called a "pre-treatment estimate" (or predetermination). After discussing your treatment options with you, the dentist submits the proposed treatment plan to Delta Dental, and we estimate what portion of the treatment is covered by your benefits and what your share of the cost will be.

Dr. Sutherland recommends that patients ask questions if the dentist does not provide enough information. It is also within the patient's rights to request a second opinion if they have concerns about the proposed treatment. "What it comes down to,"quot; Dr. Sutherland says, "is having enough explanation that you can make an informed decision."

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

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