A government review has found that Albertans are paying more than other Canadians to go to the dentist, but the province is stopping short of regulating fees.
Instead, the NDP government says it will work with dentists to develop a fee guide to allow patients to shop around for services.
The review found that the average costs of 49 procedures are up to 44 per cent higher in Alberta than in British Columbia, up to 38 per cent more than in Saskatchewan and up to 25 per cent more than in Ontario.
“Albertans in general are higher income earners on average than other parts of the country, but that doesn’t mean that we should be seeing exorbitant rates,” Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said Thursday.
“We are looking at what’s working in other jurisdictions and one of the pieces there is a fee guide.”
READ MORE: How should Alberta deal with rising dental fees?
Dr. Mintoo Basahti, president-elect of the Alberta Dental Association and College, joined Hoffman for the announcement. He seemed to take issue with some of the review’s cost comparisons.
“Numbers can be tweaked however you like them,” he said. “We acknowledge in Alberta that fees may generally be higher, but if you look at it across the board, it’s probably no more than 15 to 20 per cent.”
It does cost more for dentists to operate in Alberta. The review says hygenists are paid up to $18 an hour more than in the rest of the country and assistants are paid up to $10 an hour more. Costs for materials and rent are also higher.
READ MORE: Calgary city council wants province to deal with high dental fees
The review presented the government with the option of changing the law to regulate costs, but it noted that could compromise patient care because “dentists may be pressured to focus on their dental service fees.”
Hoffman said the government decided to focus on a fee guide because it has worked in other provinces.
“We looked at what every other province is doing because certainly affordability is an issue in Alberta, in particular, and in no other province have they brought forward that level of precision,” she said.
“But they have been able to get things more affordable.”
Watch below: A trip to the dentist in Alberta costs more than in any other province. On Thursday, Albertans found out just how much more and what their government plans to do about it. Kendra Slugoski reports.