Albertans could see dental costs drop thanks to new fee guide

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WATCH ABOVE: Your next visit to the dentist could come with a lower bill now that a new fee guide has been released. Tom Vernon has more – Aug 17, 2017

The Alberta Dental Association and College has released a new dental fee guide.

The goal of the guide is to create transparency and put downward pressure on dentists to reduce service fees closer to the national average.

“Our primary goal is to build trust with the citizens of Alberta through improved transparency and enhanced communications,” Alberta Dental Association and College president-elect Dr. Basahti said.

It’s not mandatory for dentists to follow the guide; rather, it’s suggested they do.

“It’s still a guide but if you look at the behaviour in other provinces and you look at us 20 years ago, the habit tends to be to come closer to that guide,” Basahti said.

“This is a tool for patients now. They’re able to take this document and able to have a good conversation with their dentist, and the dentist actually now has a tool themselves to be able to talk to the patient.”

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READ MORE: How should Alberta deal with rising dental fees?

The guide was created based on things like the cost of providing and delivering services, the complexity of a procedure and the time required to perform a procedure.

“We also took a look at the independent survey that we do annually from members as to their costs at providing services, and we also took a look at the independent report the government released in December,” Basahti said.

The report 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.

READ MORE: Review finds Albertans pay more for dentists; fee guide on the way

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.”

Basahti said it’s difficult to give a percentage on how much Albertans could save if dentists follow the guide, but said it would be “significant.”

“If you look at our fee guide and look at the high, you’re going to see a dramatic difference from that. If you look at the medium, you’ll see some real downward pressure from that as well,” he said.

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“It’s still difficult to compare us directly to other provinces because the input costs are still higher in Alberta and that’s just a factor.”

It does cost more for dentists to operate in Alberta. The government’s review showed 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.

Basahti said changes as a result of the guide may result in lower income for dental practices.

The association and college worked closely with the province on the guide, Basahti said.

The fee guide will be posted on the association’s website, and Basahti said he expects dentists will begin comparing their fees immediately.

“No one wants to be an outlier.”

Alberta has been without a dental fee guide for 20 years.

The implementation date for the guide is September 1.