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Dan White: New price-lists may take some of the pain out of that visit to the dentist

Dan answers your financial questions

MY teeth need a lot work. I have been putting off the evil day of visiting the dentist for as long as possible. Not alone do I hate going to the dentist, I am also worried about what any dental treatment that I require might cost. Is there any way of comparing dentists’ prices? The last thing I want to do is hand over an absolute fortune to one dentist only to find that I could have had the same work done by another dentist down the road for far less.

GRAINNE

Grainne is right to be worried. A May 2010 survey by the National Consumer Agency found that less than a third of all dentists were displaying a price list.

This made it virtually impossible for patients to compare prices. Would I be considered suspicious if I wondered whether or not this was the object of the exercise?

That is about to change. From June 1 all dentists will have to display a price-list.

Under the new regulations, a dentist's price-list will have to show prices for dental examinations, hygiene, extractions, X-rays, restorations, dentures and root canal treatment.

While the new price list doesn't cover everything, it does cover most of the main treatments and should give patients a fair idea of which dentists are outrageously expensive and those who are merely pricey.

A draft copy of the new dental price list can be downloaded from the Dental Council of Ireland's website, dentalcouncil.ie/files.

Canny

So far, so good. Unfortunately what the new price-lists are unlikely to do, at least in the she short term, is close the huge price gap between dentists in the Republic and their counterparts in Northern Ireland.

My advice to Grainne and other people who need dental treatment is to use the new price lists to shop around to see which dentists offer the best value. The aforementioned NCA survey found that, while one dentist in Dublin charged €150 for an extraction, the same job cost a mere €40 in Kerry.

The new price-lists also provides canny patients with a check-list when comparing prices between dentists in the Republic and those in the North. When you ring a Northern dentist to check his or her prices, all you now need to do is to run through the list of treatments on the price-list. That way you can directly compare, not just between dentists in the Republic, but also what dentists north of the border are charging.

I have been struggling financially for the past 18 months. While I have so far managed to keep my mortgage repayments up to date, I have fallen behind on paying both my ESB and Bord Gais bills. Recently the ESB cut their prices. However, when I tried to take advantage of these lower prices I was told that, because I was in arrears, they didn’t apply to me.

Can this be true? It seems desperately unfair that those ESB customers who need these lower prices the most are prevented from benefiting from them.

MICHELLE

Unfortunately, it was. When the ESB announced a fortnight ago that it was cutting its prices by up to 17pc it specifically excluded customers who either were in arrears or had been in arrears at any time over the previous 12 months from the offer.

Not surprisingly the exclusion of those customers who would have benefited most from the price cut unleashed a storm of protest with both the Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton and the National Consumer Agency calling on the ESB to reconsider its decision.

The good news is that last week the ESB finally bowed to pressure and extended the deal to customers who were in arrears.

The bad news is that, with energy prices at close to record levels, there will be a mega-price increase in the autumn.


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