Dentists can teach patients about dental insurance, experts say
AUSTRALIA’S dental insurance market has grown exponentially in the past two years, and with it, the prices of the products that people use to cover dental care.
But with the price of insurance on the rise, many dentists are struggling to keep up with rising demand and a lack of knowledge about the dental insurance industry, experts said on Wednesday.
The dental insurance crisis is affecting dentists across the country, with some seeing their businesses fall by as much as 50 per cent.
The industry is estimated to be worth about $8 billion in the country.
The main insurers for dental insurance in Australia are Aventis, Qantas, AIM and Centura, which are owned by Qantab, the national insurer.
But some dentists and dentists’ associations say the industry has a far more fragmented market, with different insurers offering different products.
The problem is that they don’t have all the information that dental insurance providers have, so you don’t know how much your dentist might be paying.
Dr Stephen Gough, a general dentist at the University of New South Wales, said the growing demand for dental services was affecting the market.
“There are some dentistry practices that are already facing a big loss because of that,” he said.
“The industry as a whole is seeing an increase in the price point of dental insurance products, which is affecting a lot of dentists.”
Dr Gough said the situation was particularly acute in Victoria where the average premium had increased from $1,000 to $1.2 million.
“We’re going to see a lot more people in Victoria that have to switch their dental insurance provider and that will put dentists in a bit of a bind,” he warned.
“They’re going through a bit more of a struggle to stay afloat.”
What’s driving the rising dental insurance premiums?
Dr Gaugh said the problem was that the dental industry was not equipped to handle the increase in demand.
“It’s the lack of information, the lack and the lack, and the fact that the information is often not available to the dental insurers,” he told the ABC.
“Dentists are just not equipped and that’s going to impact on their ability to do their job.”
Dr Chris Williams, who is a general practitioner at Melbourne’s University of Technology, said that while the dental products and the dental plan are expensive, it’s not that high of a price tag.
“You don’t see that kind of increase when you’re talking about dental implants and you’re paying $20,000 a year for a crown and crowns,” he explained.
“If you’re not going to pay $20 a year, you’re just not going for the stuff that people want.”
Dr Williams said dental insurance was not just about the cost of the crown, but the cost and time it took to fill up.
“People are looking for a product that they can take for a week or a month, and they want a product where they can do it and do it without being rushed,” he argued.
“That’s the price you’re willing to pay, because you want it done right and it’s a little bit quicker to do it.”
What you need to know about dental caries preventionThe ABC asked dentists what they thought was behind the rising premiums.
Dr Gaurav Ravi, who has a practice in Victoria’s inner west, said it was due to the increased demand for services.
“A lot of people are in a very difficult position because they’re getting really sick, they’re just taking too many pills,” he recounted.
“I think that’s why the demand for the products is increasing.”
Dr Ravi said people were coming in for dental treatment because they wanted a quick fix, but there were many who were looking for services that were less invasive and more affordable.
“When you’re getting your teeth fixed, you don