Review reveals Alberta has highest dental fees in Canada

Fees in the province are also surging more quickly than anywhere else in the country

Back in mid-2015, complaints of expensive dental work and lack of transparency prompted Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman to launch a review of dental fees in the province. The recently released results showed markedly higher prices and significantly faster fee increases in Alberta than in any other Canadian province, according to the Edmonton Sun.

For 49 common dental procedures, Alberta’s fees were as much as 44% higher on average compared to those in neighboring provinces. For recall exams (checkups), prevention (polishing, scaling, and peridontal appliances), and crowns, fees in Alberta were consistently higher.

According to Mintoo Basahti, president-elect of the Alberta Dental Association and College, dentists in the province face higher costs as employees are more expensive and the sterilization standards are the highest in Canada.

“There’s a number of studies out there that show that the net take-home for dentists in Alberta is comparable to dentists across the country,” Basahti said. According to the provincial review, hygienists are paid $12 to $18 an hour more in Alberta than in other provinces, while assistants can cost $10 an hour more. As for office costs, they amounted to 69.8% of dental fee billings in Alberta, compared to 69.3% in BC and 68.6% in Saskatchewan.

Hoffman has announced plans to create a dental fee guide to be released publicly in 2017, around 20 years after the Alberta Dental Association and College stopped publishing a suggested fee guide. As a reference for Albertans, the province has also published a report of average dental fees charged in 2016 for the most common procedures.

Hoffman said she stopped short of releasing a fee schedule to regulate prices. “We wanted to get the best value but also enable consumers to shop around at the same time,” she said.

Frank Swedlove, president and CEO of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, lauded the plan. “Employers and the 1.8 million Albertans on dental plans that work for them are clearly concerned about the high cost of dental treatments in the province,” he said in a release.

However, not all are supportive. Red deer dentist Michael Zuk said the fee guide would end up hurting patients that have a single dental plan. “The insurance companies will… use a lower fee guide to reimburse at a lower level and dentists won’t be using that as their guide,” he said. “Now, there will be a bigger difference the patient has to cough up.”

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