Dental patients still asked to pay rip-off prices, watchdog warns
A CONSUMER watchdog warned dental patients yesterday to be alert for dentists who are still charging exorbitant rates.
This follows an investigation by the Irish Independent which found patients can save thousands by shopping around within the country, and even more by travelling abroad.
Prices of a full set of metal dentures varies from €1,100 to €3,000 here -- while in Newry you can get them for €798.
The cost of a crown also varied widely, with prices here starting from €500, but going as high as €975.
In Northern Ireland, the price of a crown was significantly lower at €331 to €514; while a Hungarian clinic quoted €239 to €512.
The Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI) said the huge price variations were striking.
"For years dentists have been blaming the costs of doing business, different qualifications and materials elsewhere, and everyone but themselves for the high prices here," said CAI Chief Executive Dermott Jewell.
"While an element of competition has finally entered the market, some of the prices being charged are still exorbitant," he said.
This highlighted the long-overdue need for price displays at all surgeries which will finally be introduced next month to allow patients to shop around more easily, he said.
The Irish Dental Association (IDA) said huge variation in fees within Ireland showed there was strong competition in the market, as they would be accused of running a monopoly if prices were the same everywhere.
IDA president Dr Conor McAlister said price variations here could be down to much higher rent in some areas, and the fact that some dentists had specialist postgraduate qualifications or offered more complex treatments.
Consumers are keen to get better deals, with a large number requesting information on treatments in Europe and the UK and also looking for good value at home, said Orla Fahy, director of Avantis Health, which sources medical and dental treatments for Irish patients.
Camlough Dental in Newry said they were "inundated" with Irish patients, both for major treatments and routine check-ups.
Hundreds of Irish patients are also travelling to Hungary for treatment each year, typically for costly restoration work, said Tibor dental assistant manager Tomas Sebastian.
"We have seen this trend since we started four or five years ago, but while it has not been helped by the recession, it has held steady," he said.
From June 1, all dentists will be obliged to display a detailed list of their prices.