Earlier I posted an article describing how many people are foregoing dental care due to the cost of dental treatment.
Many people think dental care is unaffordable because dentists charge too much. Traditionally, dental care costs have gone up less than any other medical costs. Normally, dental costs tend to rise about 5% a year. To satisfy my own curiosity I went to my Quickbooks records and tried to determine how much my revenue went up and costs went up, comparing 2005 to 2014.
Comparing the years 2005 and 2014, my revenue increased 6.4% or about .7% a year. I then looked at my largest expense categories and compared them. In those same years, my rent increased 13% , my lab bill to have dental work manufactured increased 13.7% and my dental supply cost increased 21%. My costs have escalated far beyond my revenue increases. Now, mind you I am not crying poverty but this illustration shows that my fees have not kept up with my costs and at this time I am probably earning less money than I was in 2005.
Why did I bother to do this illustration? I wanted to see if cost is the reason people are avoiding the dentist and if dentists are charging too much. From my personal case, I feel that my fee increases have not been that large. What I do feel is happening is that peoples’ incomes have not kept up with the cost of living and in fact may have decreased over the past ten years. Actual salaries in real dollar terms have decreased while the cost of food, housing and college has gone up. Most people are having a hard time keeping up with their daily expenses, and dental care, unfortunately, has not been a priority.
This situation is reminiscent of the state of dental care in the 1950’s, 1960’s and early 1970’s. Before dental insurance, people paid for dental care out of their own pocket and many people avoided going to the dentist. With the advent of dental insurance, more people could afford to go to the dentist because a third party was paying for it. Now, what we have seen is a restriction on what insurance covers and higher out of pocket copays. Further, the loss of income for people has put a strain on finances.
What is the solution? I wish I had a good answer but unfortunately it seems that a major rift has developed in the perceived importance of dental care and what people are willing to pay for. For dentists it is always a challenge to provide the best dental care with the most up to date technology at a reasonable cost. Dentists are business people but we are consumers too and understand what people are going through. I hope at some point people will go back to earning the salaries they deserve so they can provide a good life for their families.