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Dental Fees

Dental Patient Rights
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I got an email yesterday from a reader named Harris, who stated, “I paid $5000 to replace a broken crown. The dentist did not tell me what the cost would be until he had already started the procedure.”

Harris wanted to know what kind of rights he had as a dental patient when you’re not told the cost of dental treatment in advance.  I told Harris that it is generally accepted that a dental patient has a right to know an estimate of the cost of a procedure before treatment begins.

I’ve received many other questions about dental patient rights in the past, and I thought that it would be a good time to discuss the rights of a dental patient. I have listed below what I believe to be 20 core rights that every dental patient deserves, and I’ll probably use something similar to this as the patient bill of rights in my future dental practice.

Dental Patient Rights

Dental Patient RightsKeep in mind that these are not legally-binding rights, although they are good recommendations for a dentist to establish a positive, successful relationship with his or her patients.

I have provided links to many other dental patient bill of rights at the end of the article if you want to take a deeper look into the world of dental patient rights.

The Right to Choose Your Dentist

You have a right to choose your own dentist.  Many dentists have different philosophies regarding the best treatment and you have the right to choose the dentist with whom you feel most comfortable.

The Right to Quality Dental Treatment

You have a right to receive treatment that meets or exceeds the accepted dental standard of care.

The Right to Know the Education and Training of the Dental Team

You have a right to know about the education and qualifications of the entire dental team, including the dentist, dental hygienist, assistants, and staff.  Many dental practices that believe in lots of continuing education post this information on their practice website.

Most states require that a dentist complete 15-25 continuing education “credits” every year.  You can ask your dentist how many he or she has taken.  Some dentists get by on the minimum, and other dentists take more courses than required.

The Right to a Clean Treatment Environment

The dental team should be using appropriate infection-control and sterilization techniques.

Learn how to tell if your dentist has a good infection control program.

The Right to Confidential Treatment

You have the right to expect that no member of the dental team will discuss your treatment with anyone else unless you authorize it.  This is a right granted under the HIPAA privacy rule.

The Right to Know the Cost of Treatment

You have the right to know how much treatment will cost before treatment begins.  Sometimes we don’t know what we’ll find before we start working on a patient, so it can be difficult to give an exact fee.

If this is the case, the dentist should be able to provide you with an estimate of the fee based on the various outcomes and treatment options.

Curious about dental fees?  Find the average dental fee in your area.

The Right to Know Why You Need Treatment

You have the right to know why treatment is necessary for your particular condition.

The Right to Know Treatment Risks

You have the right to know what risks are associated with treatment as well as the risks of not proceeding with treatment.

The Right to Know Treatment Alternatives

There’s more than one way to skin a cat — You have a right to know what other treatments are available that would also solve your dental problem as well as knowing how long the various treatment alternatives will last.

The Right to Decline Treatment

You have the right to decline treatment if you so desire.  You also have a right to know what may occur if you choose not to accept the treatment that your dentist proposes.

The Right to Know Expected Treatment Results

You have the right to know what the expected outcome of your treatment will be.

The Right to Emergency Dental Treatment

You have the right to receive emergency treatment from your dentist within a reasonable time-frame.  Many dentists set aside a certain amount of time each day to see emergencies.

The Right to Be Treated Respectfully

The dental team should treat you respectfully and considerately.

The Right to Not Be Discriminated Against

You have the right to not be discriminated against.  You should receive quality treatment no matter your ethnicity, sex, religion, disability, or age.

The Right to See the Dentist at Every Visit

You have a right to see the dentist every time you receive dental treatment.  Different states have varying laws regarding this, and thus you can clarify this with your dental office if you wish to see the dentist at every visit.

The Right to Know How to Resolve Disputes

You have the right to know what actions you can take to resolve any disputes that might arise between you and your dentist.  There are many ways to resolve disputes with your dentist.

Dental peer review is one of these means — here’s what it takes to win a lawsuit against your dentist.

The Right to Timely Dental Treatment

If a dentist accepts you as a patient, you have a right to expect that you can make appointments in a timely manner and not have to wait many months before receiving treatment.

Keep in mind that sometimes this is beyond the dentist’s control.  For example, if you require IV sedation or anesthesia in a hospital setting, it may take a long time to schedule your appointment so that you can have all of the health professionals available to provide you with safe, effective treatment.

The Right to a Conversation With Your Dental Team Regarding Your Treatment

You have a right to receive answers to any questions that you may have regarding your current oral health status and your proposed treatment.

You also have the right to discuss any concerns you may have regarding the proposed treatment.

The Right to Your Dental Records

You have the right to have your dental records and x-rays transferred to another dentist of your choice either for free or for a nominal fee.

Learn more about how to get a copy of your dental records.

The Right to Reasonable Accommodations for Your Disability

If you have a disability, you have a right to expect your dentist to make reasonable accommodations.  For example, I have treated patients in their wheel chair when they are unable to move themselves into our clinical dental chairs.

Dental Patient Rights Available Online

There are a number of dental patient bill of rights available online.  My dental school and the ADA have made copies of their dental patient bill of rights available on the internet.  Here’s a few:

It’s interesting to note how Boston University’s dental patient rights differs from the other schools’ since they are a private university and appear to be more selective at accepting patients.

Questions About Dental Patient Rights?

Do you have any questions regarding your rights as a dental patient?  Leave them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Thanks for reading!

Average Dental Fees In Your Area

Do you need to have a lot of dental work done?  If the cost of the treatment plan that your dentist has presented to you seems rather expensive, you might want to find out if your dentist is charging higher than average fees for your area of the country.

Average Dental FeesI’d previously written about an easy way to find the average dental costs in your area, but it had some limitations.  One big limitation was that there were only a few dental procedures for which you could view the corresponding fees.

Recently, FAIR Health, Inc. created a website that allows consumers to estimate their dental costs based on the area in which they live.  Unlike the previous dental cost estimator that I wrote about, FAIR Health’s dental cost look-up site allows you to look up the average costs for a variety of different procedures, including:

  • Anesthesia and Sedation (Nitrous)
  • Bridges
  • Cleaning, Fluorides and Sealants
  • Crowns (Caps)
  • Dentures (Complete & Partial)
  • Emergency Treatment-Palliative
  • Endodontics – Root Canals
  • Exams and Consults
  • Extractions and Impactions
  • Fillings
  • Implants
  • Periodontal (Gum) Services
  • X-rays

How to Find The Average Dental Fees In Your Area

FAIR Health’s website is FAIRly easy to navigate (sorry, I couldn’t resist!)  All you have to do to find the average dental fees in your area is to go to fairhealthconsumer.org/dentalcostlookup and type your zip code in the box, and then type in a dental procedure or select one from their list.

A Cost Comparison Between New York and Mississippi

Just for fun, I decided to find out the average cost of three different types of crowns in Hattiesburg, Mississippi versus how much they would cost in Manhattan, New York.

The three types of crowns that I ran a cost analysis on are:

  • A tooth-colored crown made entirely of ceramic
  • A tooth-colored crown made of a metal base, covered by a layer of ceramic
  • A gold-colored crown

As evidenced by the screenshots below, you might want to take a road trip down to Mississippi if you need a few crowns done, as they are less than half the cost of getting the same crowns done in New York.

Comparing the Average Dental Fees in Two Areas

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that these services are only as good as the data that they have on file.  They may not get their data from your dentist in particular.

Also, their “average” dental fee appears to be around the 80th percentile, which isn’t really average.

Overall, I would say that this is a good way to figure out if your dentist’s fees are in line with the average dental fees in your area.

Do you have any questions or comments about dental fees in your area?  Do you know of any other ways to estimate dental fees?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

For the record, I have no affiliation with FAIR Health, Inc. and simply wrote this post because I believe that they provide a helpful service.

Average Dental Costs
©Jason Stitt/Shutterstock.com

If you don’t have dental insurance and have to pay out of pocket for your dental work, you are probably aware that high dental costs can limit what kind of dental treatment that you can afford.

You might also wonder why such seemingly simple dental work can cost so much.  I won’t answer that question in this article, but if you’re interested in that subject, Dr. Dean Brandon has written an excellent article on his Pediatric Dentistry blog entitled, Why Does Dentistry Cost So Much?

Dentist FeesIf your dental work seems like it’s costing you too much, you might be wondering if other dentists in your area offer the same dental procedures at a lower cost.

It’s pretty easy to find out if your dentist’s fees are above average, as you’ll find out below.

How To Find Out If Your Dentist’s Fees Are Higher Than Normal

A dental practice optimization company, Sikka Software, has created an online tool that will show you the average dental costs for ten common procedures.  You can get to the tool by clicking here.

They send you the average dental fees via email, so you will need to give them your email address.  Don’t worry though, I’ve done this a few times for various ZIP codes of places where we are thinking about practicing and they haven’t sent me any spam/newsletters/unwanted email.

The email that they send you may be a little hard to understand, so I’ve given an explanation below.

Making Sense of the Average Dental Costs Chart

Sample Dental Fee SurveyTo the left is a sample fee survey that I requested for Burlington, Vermont (one of the areas we had previously considered as our future home.)

I outlined the 50th percentile fees in pink.  That’s the column that you want to look at if you want to compare your dentist’s fees to the average.

They provide the average dental costs for ten different dental procedures.  Here’s what they mean:

0120 Periodic Oral Exam is the exam that you have every six months where your dentist evaluates your head, neck, mouth, and teeth to make sure everything is healthy.

0330 Panoramic X-ray is the big x-ray that goes around your head.

1110 Prophylaxis is simply a routine cleaning

2331 Resin-Based Composite is a 2-surface white filling in a front tooth (for example, it could be for a cavity that is located between two front teeth.)

2392 Resin-Based Composite is a 2-surface white filling in a back tooth.

2740 Crown is a crown made completely out of porcelain or ceramic.

2752 Porcelain Fused to Noble Metal is a crown made out of porcelain that has a thin metal substructure for added strength.

3346 Anterior Endo is a root canal in one of the six front teeth (you can count on a root canal in a back tooth being somewhere between 20% to 60% more than this fee)

5110 Maxillary Complete Denture is just a traditional upper denture that replaces every tooth in the upper jaw.

7140 Single Tooth Extraction is when you get a single tooth pulled with forceps (i.e. – the dentist does not need to surgically go in and remove bone to get the tooth out.)


Keep in mind that this company simply takes the average of a small number of dentists that they work with.  The average dental costs that they email you may not accurately reflect the fees in your area, but they should be fairly close.

Remember that all fees are different for different dentists and depend of a variety of different circumstances.

Do you have any questions about the average dentist’s fees in your area or dental costs in general?  I’m happy to help answer any questions that you may have in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!