As inflation impacts the price of pretty much everything, dental service costs have soared, too.
It’s putting a financial strain on patients and those treating them.
“During the beginning of the pandemic, nobody was getting routine care,” said Bryanne Chandler, a doctor of dental surgery who practices in Colchester and Kensington.
At the time, dentist visits were limited to only emergency and urgent care patients.
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But as waiting rooms have reopened, some patients have been avoiding getting back in the chair creating quite the buildup of bacteria and cavities too.
“Now what we’re finding is fillings that would have been small have gotten much larger. Periodontal disease, which would have been an easy fix, has gotten much larger as well,” Chandler explained.
Chandler said dental costs have increased three to four times of what they were pre-pandemic with the price of gloves and laboratory fees growing, for example. Connecticut State Dental Association confirms the same.
In addition, it said practices are having to increase wages as they deal with a shortage of workers, too, as many of whom left the field during the pandemic to take care of family matters and for other reasons.
While Chandler’s not raising her prices for patients, she says patients are paying more out of pocket premiums.
“A lot of the increase in costs is because patients haven’t been to the dentist in a couple of years and now that they’re coming out the procedures are larger unfortunately, and their insurance is not matching that even though they haven’t used it for two years," Chandler said.
Her practice sees elderly folks on fixed income dealing with this most often, having to decide whether to get a tooth fixed, for example, or just get it pulled, so they can pay their rent or pay for groceries.
Chandler said at her practice she can work with individuals and payment plans are available. Plus, she has a senior discount, too, to get folks the care they need.
Connecticut State Dental Association (CSDA) is pushing for legislative change to protect patients.
“This is the insurance capital of the world and what we're focusing on is that insurance reimbursement rates have gone down consistently, even through the pandemic, even when costs are rising. So the dentists are getting less money coming back from the insurance companies and yet patient premiums have gone up. And so, where's the money going?” said Executive Director Kathlene Gerrity.
For folks fearful of costs, the association said don’t be afraid to talk to your oral health care provider about prices; they say there is help out there.
“We work with foundations that help people to find care and find a way to financially afford the care. So we don't ask our dentists to give away their profession, you know, but a lot of them do have services that will make it very easy for you to find an affordable plan,” Gerrity said.
Experts said oral health is essential to overall health.
“Poor dental health can impact your entire body. It’s linked to diabetes, to cardiovascular disease, even Alzheimer’s disease,” Chandler said.
For people without insurance, this year, the Connecticut Mission of Mercy Free Dental Clinic is returning after pandemic pause.
It provides millions of dollars in free dental care for families. This year’s event will be in November over Veteran’s Day weekend at UConn Dental school in Farmington.
CSDA said more details will be available as the event nears.