Survey shows Dublin clinic charges most while Donegal surgery is the cheapest
Massive variations in the price of routine dental treatments across the country have been uncovered in an Irish Independent survey.
It shows some patients are paying nearly five times more than others for routine procedures such as fillings.
We looked at the prices charged by 220 dentists and found they differ hugely, even among surgeries in the same county.
Dublin was the most expensive and Donegal the cheapest.
In one Kilkenny dentist’s surgery, it costs €60 for a filling, while only 300 metres away in another, patients are charged €120.
In North Dublin, the price of a filling in a Sutton clinic starts at €60, while a short drive away a Malahide dentist is charging €150.
In Blackrock, South Dublin, Seapoint Clinic charges patients €170 for a filling, while a clinic in nearby Dundrum offers the procedure from €70.
Of the 220 dentists surveyed, Seapoint was the most expensive for a filling at nearly five times the price of the cheapest, which is in Donegal and charges €35.
A spokesperson for Seapoint said the reason it charges more than others is that it takes “a holistic view of dental care as an essential part of overall health rather than trying to be a low-cost provider”.
“Seapoint Clinic is a private-only, high-tech specialist centre and our pricing reflects the quality of the dentistry that we provide.
“Not all ‘fillings’ are the same. We carry out full cosmetic reconstructions of teeth rather than just ‘filling’ them in the traditional sense.”
The cost of a routine check-up in Ireland ranges from €30 to €120.
A dentist in Cork city is the most expensive at €120 for a check-up, and promises patients “a private clinic that focuses on providing the highest level of care and a unique customer service experience”.
Of all the dentists surveyed, more than 30 offer a check-up for €30. The national average charge is €45.20.
The price of a scale and polish ranges from €20 to €120, with the national average being €70.61.
Western counties including Clare, Mayo and Donegal tended to be cheaper than Kildare, Meath and Wicklow.
Counties with fewer clinics, such as Sligo and Roscommon, tended to be dearer than other rural areas with more dentists, such as Cavan and Monaghan.
Fintan Hourihan, CEO of the Irish Dental Association, said price is usually “a long way down the list” of why patients choose a dental practice.
“We don’t believe people make decisions, in terms of a long-term relationship with a dentist, based on fees, but more so on the quality of care that is provided to them,” he said.
“The last survey we did, we found that an individual spent an average of 11 years with the same dentist.
“While people are entitled to shop around, and this is facilitated by dentists publishing their fees, we found that when people find the right dentist they tend to stay with them.
“When questions are asked – ‘Why did you choose a particular dentist?’ – they usually base it on different criteria, but usually the price is a long way down their list.
“That’s not saying people aren’t mindful of fees, but it’s about midway down the list of criteria when choosing a dentist.”
Mr Hourihan said dentists are transparent with their fees, but until a patient sits in their chair they do not know exactly what work will need to be done.
He added that costs will vary from county to county as the cost of labour, property and utility bills are “far greater” in cities than in rural Ireland.
A survey conducted by researchers at Trinity College Dublin also found notable price variations by region and type of services, as well as an uneven supply of dentists across the country.
The study, led by a team from the Centre for Health Policy and Management, surveyed 100 dentists around the country in 2020 and found the cost of teeth whitening ranges from €150 to €450.
The biggest variations in real terms were found in the cost of more complex treatments such as root canal work, with the price ranging between €400 and €975.
One of the Trinity report’s authors, Samantha Smith, said the study showed the average price for most services, apart from small fillings and periodontal care, was cheaper in rural-based dental practices than in their urban counterparts.
“Lower overheads in rural areas compared with urban areas may be contributing to these patterns,” Dr Smith said.
Similarly, average prices for dentists based in counties along the Border are also cheaper for most services than in other parts of Ireland.
“These patterns suggest that dental practices may be in competition with practices in nearby areas across the Border in Northern Ireland,” Dr Smith said.
Although the Dental Council of Ireland specifies a list of services for which prices must be displayed in a dental surgery, the report said it was “interesting” that the same level of information was not available in online price lists.
Prices were missing for up to 51pc of some treatments, while the cost of procedures for children and students was also very limited.