By Cri Boratenski – Executive Director at Colorado Family Dentistry
Every week our office gets dozens of calls from people asking for prices on dental procedures. This has become one of my greatest frustrations in my job so I felt compelled to write a bit about it. It’s not frustrating because people are looking for a good price. I can completely relate, I don’t want to overpay a dime for anything. What frustrates me is that price is almost always the only factor that people consider when shopping for a dentist. Not once when asking for a price on a crown has anyone asked about the composition of the crown or where our crowns are fabricated; price is always the only concern. I wish more people shopped around, I just want to make sure that people are looking at value rather than cost when shopping since a poorly executed crown can result in tooth loss, bone loss and many times the cost and discomfort of the original crown replacement procedure. Nearly every shopper I have spoken to has been wasting their time or even doing themselves a disservice because they’re not asking the right questions, but we’re going to give you the information you need to shop for a dentist and come out a winner.
The problem with shopping on price alone is that dentistry is not a commodity. You’re not going to walk away with the same product regardless of where you have the work done. If you were shopping for a car and you knew that you wanted to buy a new silver Toyota Camry LE you could call around to every Toyota dealership in town and see who has the best price, why, because at the end of the day you’re leaving the dealership with the same product. Yes there’s certainly a service element to buying a car and that does have value, but the value of the service is very tiny in comparison to the value of the commodity… the car.
Chances are that every Toyota from every dealership in your town is made at the same factory using the same materials, the same process and is held to the same standard. If you think that every dentist in your town uses the same materials, the same process and holds their work to the same standard then think again. What you’re about to learn will forever change what you look for in a dentist.
There’s a big difference between shopping for a car and shopping for a dentist. So why is it that consumers still use the same process? One reason is that consumers generally don’t know what they need to know. In other words, they don’t know what questions to ask or what information is relevant when seeing out a dentist. We’re about to fix that problem…
I believe the other reason is that we have become conditioned as a society to focus exclusively on price! Personally, I blame big retail business for this. For the last several decades big box stores like Home Depot and Walmart have moved into towns, edging out the mom and pop shops. Why did customers transition to the big guys? Because the consumer placed much more value in the coffee maker or the rake that they came to purchase than they did in the service that they received from the staff. Most customers are willing to spend a few extra minutes or even hours, on big items, to find the product that they want if it means that they save 20-30% on the cost. After all, they’re walking away from the big box store with the exact same product that they would have found at the mom and pop shop.
In dentistry nearly all of the value of the product (the filling or night guard or cleaning, etc) is wrapped up in the service. Dentists aren’t stamped out in a factory somewhere. Even dentists coming from the exact same class at the same dental school are going to have vastly different methods of practicing. Think back to your senior class in high school and the diversity of people in your class. That same diversity is going to be found in dentists out in the real world. I’m going to help you figure out how to find the valedictorian rather than ending up with the guy in the Camaro who did donuts in the parking lot and ended up repeating his senior year.
Enough blabbing, in part 2 we’ll get to the meat of it starting with the general things that you should look for in the practice as a whole and then we’ll drill down to specific procedures and what you need to know to get the best possible value from your treatment.