If your dentist office is anything like ours, there’s a clear divide between the dental professionals (dentist, dental hygienist, etc.) and the administrative billing specialists. These dental professionals will offer you their expert advice without any view of how much a recommended procedure or course of action is liable to cost you when the bill arrives. In some cases, the process is comically opaque. The billing person might tell you something like, There are inconsistencies in the insurance fee schedule. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens when you get the bill.
Aside from the fact that one should really be able to know how much a service is going to cost before getting it, there is a more insidious effect that tends to occur with these types of insurance coverage policies—if you can even call the seemingly arbitrary ways that insurance bills people as “policies.” But the insidious effect is to create the belief that patients aren’t in control of their own dental health outcomes. If you don’t know how much a dental procedure is going to cost, you can’t contextualize your choices and you can’t buy in to a teeth cleaning routine.
And while dentists and dental hygienist like to focus on the dentistry and pretend the insurance issues don’t exist, when you ask them behind closed doors, they know that dental insurance is broken.
It undermines the credibility of specific dental advice. It can happen without us even knowing it. Of course, we tell ourselves that we’ll take care of our teeth and that we know this practice is important. But life gets in the way. Already busy schedules are overrun with unexpected headaches and all you need is a few minutes to decompress, the act of flossing and brushing your teeth can become a truly daunting task. This is especially true at the end of the day, which is unfortunate since brushing your teeth at the end of the day is the most important since it prevents food particles from decaying in your mouth overnight.
It’s a shame these types of billing frustrations can have a subtle but substantial impact on these daily habits because it’s also true that the best outcomes at the lowest overall cost tends to come with a serious and regular teeth cleaning schedule. Dental care isn’t cheap under any circumstances, but an insurance system that allows people to understand and structure these costs in a way that fits their household budget and personal priorities is bound to improve a person’s sense of control and empowerment over the future of their oral health and dental outcomes overall.