5 things your dentist isn’t telling you

Some dental procedures are necessary to maintain overall health while others are nothing but a veiled up-sell. Know the difference.



From the February/March 2013 issue of the magazine.


1. Some teeth aren’t worth saving. Dentists are trained to save teeth, but it can be cheaper to pull a problem tooth, says Dr. Michael Zuk, dentist and author of How to Save Big Money at the Dentist. You could spend all sorts of time and money, not to mention discomfort, and still end up losing the tooth. Dr. Robert Sutherland, president of the Canadian Dental Association, agrees. The more costly, invasive and risky the procedure, the more you want to ask questions.

2. Careful what you put in your mouth. Tooth veneers—a thin material cemented to the front of a tooth—can give you that Hollywood smile, but they’re a lifelong commitment. Veneers only last about 10 years, and you have to replace them when they get old or damaged. That’s why young people should steer clear of them, says Zuk. Durability is an important consideration for fillings—gold and silver last the longest.

3. Ask for a Canadian lab. Dentists can save money by having your crown or dentures made overseas, but you may want ask your dentist to use a local lab, says Sutherland. They have to meet certain training and cleanliness requirements, plus they can ensure the materials they use pass Canadian standards.

4. We can charge what we want. Most dentists charge according to a fee guide that is updated annually by the Canadian Dental Association. Insurance companies use it to determine how much they’ll reimburse you, but they don’t always use the one from the current year, says Sutherland. It’s not uncommon for your dentist to charge more than what’s covered by your benefits.

5. You can ask for your files. Seeking a second opinion or leaving for a new dentist? Take your files with you. You can request to have your X-rays and history forwarded to another dentist. Some dentists may charge a small administrative fee, but it’ll save you the trouble and cost of getting this work redone.

14 comments on “5 things your dentist isn’t telling you

  1. I decided to check out your site, after seeing an ad for your magazine on TV tonight. This article caught my eye. While #'s 1-3 and 5 are spot-on, #4 is simply wrong. I hope that your financial articles have more credibility. The Canadian Dental Association does not set dental fees. Except for Alberta, every provincial Dental Assoc. in Canada sets fees for that province, and dentists in that province are obligated to follow the guide. Alberta is the exception in that there is no mandated fee guide. Dentists in Alberta are required to set their own fees based on their costs and services, without the benefit of a provincial guide. Insurance plans must determine what they will reimburse in Alberta. Some plans may be willing to pay more than the dentist actually charges. The proviso is that dentists must charge everyone the same fee, regardless of whether they have insurance or not. Better advice would be for people to seek out a dentist who provides the quality of care matching their needs and treatment wishes, and be mindful of possible differences in fees between dentists.


    • Hi and thanks for your comment.
      FYI: There is a fee guide, but that’s all it is: a guide. Dentists are under no obligation to follow it. That’s where the problem comes in. Insurance companies look to the guide to determine how much they’ll reimburse you for, if there’s a shortfall, you’re picking up the difference. Another issue is the fact that the guide isn’t updated very frequently, so the prices dentists charge may not be in sync with what’s in the guide. For instance, costs for materials may have gone up, but the guide might not reflect that. Now how many dentists stray far beyond the price guide is another matter. In most cases dentists will try to max out your benefits — ie, they may charge more for fillings but less for x-rays, so they may try to offset the cost of one by the other so that the patient’s costs are covered by their plans.


      • I realized after I hit the Post button that I may have mis-spoken about the Fee Guides being obligatory for dentists to follow. I recall that when Alberta did have a Fee Guide, it was just that, only a Guide, and we were actually free to set our own fees. The reality was that it was easier, for many reasons, to go by the published guide, which was updated yearly. My apologies for the error of my original statement.
        I also meant to mention that the very best Dental Plan anyone can be under, is the one utilized at home where you are the very best flosser and brusher. Any current dental work will last indefinitely, and your risk of new issues is minimized. Some issues may arise from time to time, despite your best efforts, but home care is the key to savings on dental care over your lifetime.


  2. Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. I liked this blog man. This information is very important. I will suggest you to my other friend.


  3. I think your blog is fully loaded with all the necessary information regarding the topic .


  4. The actual fee per procedure is not that important. What counts is the type of treatment plan that is presented to the dental patient. It is extremely confusing because sometimes the most expensive choice is the best idea, and other times it would be a huge mistake. It is also getting more difficult to diagnose tooth decay due to the new 'low radiation' x-ray films.

    I focus on porcelain veneers as the main area that lends itself to being oversold. Alternatives that should be considered are composite bonding, minor ortho and tooth whitening. Patients need to see more routine care, avoid smoking and learn more about the extremely harmful effects of acid reflux. An angry stomach can be worse than living on candy.

    "How to Save Big Money at the Dentist" is available online for a free preview on Blurb.com.


  5. No mandated fee Guide in Quebec-Suggested fee Guide .Insurance companies may use this as a Guide but not necessarily ,they sometimes use fee guides of antecedent years something to check out on your Policy along with deduct ability and treatment exclusions,bring your ins.pamphlet to your Health care Professional ,a submitted estimate to your your Health Care Provider removes all doubt-ie. Check how long estimate is good for,they usually have an expiry date


  6. To be honest, I'm a bit scared in getting a dental work. Hopefully, none of these things will ever happen to me.


  7. If you want to avoid the 40-50% overhead that the dentist represents out of the amount billed, go directly to a dental hygienist for prevention.

    When there is no dentist pushing for costly dental work, you can get only the prevention you need, no pressure.

    I have been going to a hygiene clinic for years and all my dental problems suddenly stopped!

    I go to the non-greedy dentist that my hygienist knows and respects (not her employer by default which may be a great of a bad dentist – she will lose her job if she tells me bad).

    I get the prevention that I need and no one pushes fillings or crowns unless my hygienist detects a problem I NEED to see a dentist for.

    This hugely popular investigative report into dentistry show what you actually are in for at many dental clinics. The up-sell is incredible and the prevention aspect is a victim to profit.

    My father in law is a practice owner in another province, he makes 400-500K per year on sales of $1M. He is the biggest single overhead in his clinic by a huge factor. Dentist employees make 200-250K per year, owners make double that. He works 30 hours per week, 3.5 days per week and takes 3 months off.

    That is why a root canal is $1100 for 45 minutes. You should see his face when he gets home and has billed $15,000 in ONE DAY!! The expression comes with his hands rubbing together and grinning from ear to ear! What a monopoly they have.

    Dentists will tell you not to go to hygienists but now you know why. They do the same work in their own clinics as in dental clinics only with the greater freedom to not be obliged to refer you to THEIR boss, which may be bad, and the freedom to prevent rather than sell dental work for her boss.

    Did you know that dentists do not allow hygienists to call a cavity a cavity even if you can park a car in the hole in the tooth. Just a way to maintain their very, very lucrative monopoly.

    Where you go is up to you.

    Prevention focused or dental work focused?


  8. Deep cleaning can help remove the plaque and infected tissue in the early stages of the disease, while smoothing the damaged root surfaces of the teeth. Thanks for sharing this informative post.


  9. Really good post for healthy teeth! I have read out this entire post very carefully and have tried to understand the entire things that whether this information will be handy for my teeth or not. But finally i am pretty sure that if i maintain all this things then definitely i will keep my teeth as good as well. Thanks


  10. Dentists want to make more money, something we've known for a long time. Can't wait until they are all replaced by robots.


  11. Thanks for the info actually I didn't even know about that these 5 things. One thing I know though is that to save money on dental work, you can go to a dental school, some of them welcome patients. Students perform all work under the supervision of course. I guess you might not want to go there for some serious procedures but something easy like teeth cleaning would be okay.


  12. I am a senior on a fixed income. I am having a back molar filled and the dentist says I will need a crown. I checked the price and by the time I pay for the filling I can’t afford the crown. Is it really necessary?


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