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News / May 13, 2010

NCA calls for dentists to display prices

by Guy Hiscott

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) has called for greater transparency of dentists’ charges in Ireland following the publication of a new survey that suggests that almost seven out of 10 dentists do not display prices.

The key findings of the study include that 32% of dentists surveyed displayed a schedule of fees on their premises. In addition, there appears to be a significant regional variation when it comes to displaying price; for example, 54% of dentists surveyed in the Waterford area displayed prices versus 9% in Cork.

CEO of NCA, Ann Fitzgerald, said: ‘We recognise that many consumers do not choose their dentist on cost alone and take factors like quality of treatment, relationship and convenience into account. However, access to information on cost is vitally important in making such decisions and we are committed to providing transparency to consumers so that they can weigh all factors when considering where to go for their treatment. This is what empowering consumers is all about and we are calling on dentists and doctors to do their bit to deliver a fair deal to their patients.’

The report showed:
• The range of price for a routine examination is significant, from free (seven dentists in six locations) to €86 (Dublin City South)
• The overall/national average price recorded for a routine examination by a dentist was €44
• Nationally, the highest average price (for those that did charge a fee) for a routine examination (€52) was recorded in Dublin City South and Galway City. Overall, the lowest average price for a routine examination was found in the Ennis/Gort/Loughrea area (€36)
• The overall/national average price surveyed for a scale and polish was €61. The minimum overall price recorded for this service was €25. The highest price recorded was €90
• Nationally the average price recorded for a combined examination and scale and polish was €76
• The overall/national average price for a simple extraction was €82, with the range of prices recorded varied from €40 to €150.

Commenting on the survey, Fintan Hourihan of the Irish Dental Association said that the cost variations demonstrated healthy competition between dental practices and that: ‘While we cannot comment on fees per se, it is notable that the higher fees are charged in urban areas where costs are greater’.

Ms Fitzgerald went on to say: ‘The NCA wants to work with the regulatory and representative bodies for these professions in order to secure a better deal for consumers. We have written to them inviting them to submit a Code of Practice in this area. We have also written to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation to secure his support for measures to require transparent price display.‘

The NCA survey of general practice dentists and doctors covered 11 urban locations across Ireland and was conducted between 18 and 26 March 2010.

NCA staff visited a total of 251 doctors’ and dentists’ premises to ascertain the proportion of doctors and dentists who display a schedule of prices and to document the levels of fees charged for a small but routinely accessed range of services.

Full details of the survey, including the survey report and all tables of survey results data, are available at the NCA’s Research Zone.