Get the lowdown: Discover where you’ll shell out the most (and least) for a dentist visit

Emily Hudson By Emily Hudson Jun14,2024
Key Points
  • A first visit to the dentist can be $200 cheaper within the same city depending on where you go, new analysis found.
  • According to Cleanbill, an initial appointment is likely to be cheaper in Queensland than any other state.
  • While some clinics offer discounts for new clients, there are calls for dental services to come under Medicare.
The amount Australians need to fork out to see a dentist has been revealed, with new figures showing costs for first-time visits can vary significantly — even within the same city.
Analysis from online health directory Cleanbill listed the available average costs of dental appointments at 6,268 clinics across the country by local government area (LGA).
According to the report, published on Saturday, there are variances of over $200 in the cost of seeing a dentist for the first time between LGAs just a 30-minute drive apart.

Additional data collected in Cleanbill’s broad analysis, requested by SBS News, also showed variances in the average cost of a standard check-up and clean.

The report showed the ACT was the most expensive area to see a new dentist, with the average initial visit costing around $364.
A similar visit, likely to involve a checkup, clean, and X-rays, was the cheapest in Queensland, with an average of around $279.
James Gillespie, founder of Cleanbill, referred to figures from the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics survey on access to healthcare services, saying almost half of Australians over 15 don’t have private extras cover to see a dentist.
The health directory . But Gillespie told SBS News that “while we did see some variances in prices for GPs, those variances in price were massively exaggerated for dentist visits”.

What are the average costs for first-time visits?

The analysis found the average national cost of visiting a dental clinic for the first time was around $297 — but the price could vary.
“When you go to see a dentist for the first time, traditionally, you have your standard check-up and clean with them. But they’ll also take X-rays,” Gillespie said.
“That cost can be quite high. In fact, in a lot of areas across the country, it’s over $300.”

He said there were certain LGAs with “very, very high new patient visit costs”, while others showed average new patient visit costs that were “significantly lower”.

A graph showing the average cost of dental visits across Australia.

The average cost of first-time dental visits across the country. Source: SBS News

In Mosman, a suburb on Sydney’s lower north shore, the same service averaged about $429, across 10 quoted and available clinics. The cost of an average standard check-up and clean was around $333.

Around 20km east in Strathfield, patients could book into a dental clinic for an initial appointment for an average of $205, based on 16 clinics. The average standard check-up and clean was $184.

LGAs with fewer than three dental clinics were not included in Cleanbill’s analysis within its report into first-time visits.

Paying less for an initial dental appointment

Cleanbill found that “in order to get new patients in the door,” almost one-quarter of the listed clinics in Australia offered discounted prices.
The average national ‘new patient offer’ was about $222 (down from $297).
A spokesperson for the Australian Dental Association (ADA) told SBS News that members based their fees on “a range of variables including the cost of where their practice is located and associated rents, wages, utilities, costs of raw materials and necessities like PPE (personal protective equipment)”.
They said the costs associated with running a dental practice in Australia were high.
“We effectively run mini-hospital/surgeries with sterilising, expensive equipment and very high regulatory costs,” the spokesperson said.

“ADA fee surveys show that between 2017 and 2022, inflation went up 14.5 per cent but dentistry fees only went up 2.14 per cent over the same time.”

A young boy in a dentist chair while a dentist or dental technician looks into his mouth with an implement.

The Child Dental Benefits Schedule covers part or all of the cost of some basic dental services for Australian children but most Australians do not have access to public dental services. Source: Getty / Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket

The spokesperson said laws restricted the association from setting or recommending fees for dental treatment.

They said while they understood dental appointments may increase financial pressure on the family budget, “we also know that delaying and deferring dental treatment is likely to make the treatment more complex and expensive at a later date”.

Growing calls to address unequal access to dental care

Funding for the public dental system only covers 30 per cent of those eligible, and the vast majority of dentistry in Australia is done by dentists in the private sector.
The high cost of the private system .
A Senate committee into the provision and access of dental services in Australia identified a number of areas for improvement.

Among the recommendations in its final report released last November was that the government work “to achieve universal access to dental and oral health care, which expands coverage under Medicare or a similar scheme for essential oral health care, over time, in stages”.

The Greens, who have long advocated for including dental services in Medicare, led the inquiry. It also included two Labor and two Coalition senators.
In response to the final report, the Greens said there is an “urgent need” to expand access to free oral healthcare services.
“This is to be achieved by additional resourcing of public dental services, through federal and state and territory funding, and we see Medicare being the appropriate place for these services,” committee chair, senator Jordon Steele-John, said.
The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) has costed eight potential options to expand Commonwealth subsidies for dental services, with an uncapped version of a universal dental scheme estimated to cost the federal government about $11.6 billion.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the federal Department of Health and Aged Care said the government “is finalising its response to the Senate Select Committee into the Provision of and Access to Dental Services in Australia”.

Emily Hudson

By Emily Hudson

Emily is a talented author who has published several bestselling novels in the mystery genre. With a knack for creating gripping plotlines and intriguing characters, Emily's works have captivated readers worldwide.

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3 thoughts on “Get the lowdown: Discover where you’ll shell out the most (and least) for a dentist visit”
  1. I find it concerning that the cost of dental appointments varies so significantly within the same city. It highlights the importance of transparent pricing and the need for dental services to be more accessible and affordable for all Australians.

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