Jan 18, 2013

Extortionate dental care is our national disgrace

Having that hard, white stuff in your mouth fixed up at a reasonable cost should not be such a pipe dream -- the Brits do it at low cost. It's unacceptable that dentistry is so unaffordable in Australia.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Dentist chair

“Hello hello, this is your dentist calling.” It was 7.45 on a grey London morning, and there he was on the phone. “It is time for your check-up.” Was this real? Was I awake, or dreaming it? Was he outside the front door? Only the fact that my dentist is a British Asian with an Indian lilt stopped it from being the opening scene of some sort of slasher movie.

But that’s what a genuine public health system looks like. Dental care, like all other health care in the UK, is free, and the dentists hound you whenever your six-month appointment comes due. It’s a neat little system, based on the inherent paternalism of the NHS — in order to get free care, you have to be registered with a local dentist, and in order to stay registered, you have to go for a regular check-up (thus letting the dentist click over her/his fees from the government).

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44 thoughts on “Extortionate dental care is our national disgrace

  1. Julie Briggs

    Thank you for this article.

    Nice when someone tells it like it is.

  2. Cyndi

    Well done, Guy. This failure of successive governments to focus on the very real correlation between dental and overall health is a national scandal. Clearly they’re too busy trying to work out how to tax soft drinks.

  3. Saugoof

    Some 20 years ago I put my name down at a free dental clinic. I was told there would be a two year waiting list for non-emergency treatment, which seemed ludicrous at the time. In two years time anything I needed to get fixed would have gotten much worse and fixing it would be far more costly and labour intensive. Still, I had no money so I had no other choice. A year later I went back to check on the status and was told that they were very busy and the waiting period was still two years from then, I hadn’t progressed any in a year!

    I went back to uni shortly afterwards and thankfully that was in the pre-Howard/Costello VSU days and the student union at Monash offered dental services where I managed to get everything fixed for $15 per visit.

  4. ozziejack

    Spot on, Guy. Good dental care is way beyond the reach of many Australians. I know why many Australians go to Thailand for big dental work – have all your dental work done and have a holiday for less than half of what they would pay in Australia.

    The idea of dental ‘traineeships’ where a person is trained as a dentist at govt. expense and then is bonded to the government for a certain number of years is excellent (with a heavy pay-out if they don’t complete it). My university degree and teacher training in Victoria were part of a studentship. I was bonded for 3 years and was sent to the rural areas where teachers were short. There were lots of us. Some left early and were hit with a payout but most of us stayed on and teaching became our career. It’s a great idea and means that we don’t have to deplete trained people from overseas countries where the shortages are worse than Australia.

  5. Liz A

    I couldn’t agree more Guy. I was blown away last month when the bill for a filling was $85, and I got $15 back from my private health insurance, and was told that there was nothing back on medicare!

    And that didn’t include the rest of the cost of the visit, for which I got nothing back at all.

    I don’t know how people can have major dental work done unless they go to Thailand. It’s just not affordable otherwise.

  6. robinw

    Right on Guy. My wife just had a root canal procedure, cost $1500. 10 years ago I had two implants put in where I had been missing front teeth for over 40 years. Cost $10,000 in the year 2000. A friend had the same procedure done just recently in Manilla by a top flight dentist, the cost for 2 teeth $1000. We are getting so ripped off by a bunch of closed shop unionists that I expect that they have even the AMA standing by watching in admiration at their chutzpah.

  7. drmick

    Just had a “Dentist” tell me that I needed $40,000 worth of work done on my teeth. I say “dentist”, but he could have been a mafia extortionist or a lobbyist; hard to tell the difference these days.
    All I know was, he was wearing a mask.
    They rate with Pharmacists, (who dont wear masks but should), and “Specialists” as the greatest parasites on a system they are prepared to take from, and supply very little. They even have the power to regulate the number of parasites to ensure that they control who kills the hosts………literally.

  8. John Bennetts

    It is clear beyond doubt that cartels run the medical professions – especially speciallist medicos and private dental practices.

    The obvious answer, of course, is to outlaw the b_stards. Unfortunately, like big businesses everywhere, the rulers of these cartels are able to give instructions to governments. Australian governments of both persuasions are too weak and spineless to do what is needed to bring banks into line, to control multinational corporations and their tax-avoiding, rentseeking ways. They are also far too spineless to take on the robber barons of the dental, medical, aged care and optometric industries. These are the extortionists who trade in human pain and suffering behind a facade of imagined caring.

    Whenever attention is drawn to the multimillion dollar boys of these professions, it seems to be diverted to the mining employees earning $100k per year or airline pilots or others who have little choice about where they live and when they next see their family, the hours that they work or when they will get take their holidays.

    The cry goes up: “Look… over there… a filthy unproductive unionist. Get him!”

    All the while, the cream tier of professionals is pocketting multiples of this, without even thinking about moving away from the luxuries of prime beachfront living.

    And I haven’t even started on the legal profession!

  9. klewso

    What do the poor need good health for? They’d only live longer and more happily!
    And look who’d have to pay! …. now pass the foie gras, and where’s the claret, Nelson.

  10. zut alors

    One would assume that a resources-rich country like Oz, with an enviable economy, would be able to cover the cost of total dental care.

    A bad tooth or gums can cause a myriad of expensive health complications: it’s false economy by the government to stint on funding maintenance and treatment.

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