Why dentists can charge you more for new safety standards

Dental offices can reopen for non-emergency patients again but don't expect the appointment to look the same.

HOUSTON – Dental offices can reopen for non-emergency patients again but don’t expect the appointment or prices to be the same.

You might be asked to wait in your car before your appointment or have your temperature taken and the appointment will probably take longer. Plus, you’ll be charged extra to stay safe.

The Texas Tooth Lady, dentist Terri Alani, said she’s installed new air filters, Plexiglas to protect receptionists, bought N95 masks and face shields and she’s absorbed about $6,000 in new costs.

“Everything is so expensive. With these new guidelines, we’re having to go above and beyond and a lot of these dentists are in-network with insurance companies so they can’t raise their fees. So they have to be able to provide adequate protection for their patients and so I think most offices probably will be charging a minimal fee,” Alani explained how new protocols that must be met in order to open during this crisis are costing dental offices a lot of money.

According to the American Dental Association, it’s unfair for the cost to fall on dentists and therefore that fee can be passed on to patients.

According to this, there’s no standard amount to get reimbursed for the protective equipment necessary to maintain a dental business. Therefore, dentists could charge what they want.

Alani said she plans to charge about $10. She argued the fee isn’t to profit but to provide adequate protection.

Plus, they’ll be limiting how many patients are scheduled in a day. She used to see about 14 patients daily, she says now it will be about six or fewer per day to prevent too many people from being in the office at once.

“I really don’t have an issue with cutting my schedule in half, the biggest issue I have is making sure I have the proper PPE to make sure that my staff, myself and my patients are safe and that is the biggest concern with all of the dentists throughout the country,” Alani said.

Another change the new protocols bring means the visits may also last longer.

“The hygienist cannot use the cavitron to clean the patients’ teeth. That is that device that vibrates, it has a tip on it and it removes the tartar easily. We are not allowed to use that now because it actually releases aerosol. So they can only do hand scale, that is it. That’s going to be difficult,” Alani explained.