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Are dental prices being oversimplified?

Consumer watchdog Which? recently caused controversy by claiming that many patients were not being fully informed about the cost of dental treatments. While many took the report at face value, some are countering the information presented with arguments that Which? has oversimplified matters, and is therefore itself misleading consumers.

One of the dissenting voices in the oral healthcare industry is Dental Protection, a mutual, not-for-profit organisation that serves the dental sector. The institution published a statement yesterday (January 27th) countering Which?’s claim that dentists are not informing patients well enough about treatment costs.

According to Dental Protection, this viewpoint not only undermines the relationship between dentists and their patients, it also oversimplifies the issue. That said, communication in the industry is clearly an area in which improvements can be made.

Kevin Lewis, Dental Protection’s director, said that the fact that patients are not aware of the cost of treatments, or whether their dental care is going to come from the NHS or a private practice, is obviously not good. Communication within the oral healthcare industry is definitely something that can be improved.

However, the issue is more complicated than that. “This report – just like many others that have preceded it – oversimplifies what is a very complex and highly individual range of care and treatment options,” said Mr Lewis.

“It makes for a populist consumer story but it is ultimately unhelpful because it undermines the trust that the overwhelming majority of patients have in their dentist.” Mr Lewis also pointed out that Which? made no mention of NHS Choices, which suggests “an unlimited and unconstrained scope of NHS dentistry”, something Dental Protection thinks is misleading.
So what is the solution? Clearly there is a need for dentists to improve their communication skills when it comes to talking to patients. However, there are larger issues within the wider industry that need fixing as well; something that criticising dentists in general will not help.

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