Lower fees will turn dentistry into “a numbers game,” a Red Deer dentist predicts

Dr. Brian Saby is critical of provincial plan

Contributed photo.

A Red Deer dentist fears quality dental care will suffer if the provincial government succeeds in lowering the charge for services in a new fee guide.

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman is demanding the Alberta Dental Association and College reduce the amount Alberta dentists charge for services. This week dentists were ordered to go back to the table and drop the amount they charge by more than the association’s proposed three per cent.

Alberta’s dental fees are, overall, the highest in the country. According to Alberta Blue Cross has reported Alberta’s fees are 26 to 32 per cent higher than in other Western provinces.

But Dr. Brian Saby, of Red Deer’s Saby Dental, said the cost of doing business is high in Alberta — from paying rents to providing for the salaries of dental hygienists and and assistants.

Removing the free-enterprise aspect of dentistry and treating the service as a commodity will be good for insurance companies — they can make more profits” — but not-so-good for dentists or patients, predicted Saby.

He noted there are hidden costs to providing good dental services. He figures he’s invested about $2 million over the years on training sessions to update his techniques and to learn innovations.

Rolling back service fees “will just take away the incentive to do better and improve the quality of dentistry,” he added. “It’ll just become a numbers game. Instead of enjoying the profession, it’ll be all about the money.”

Saby won’t personally be affected by the changes because he ‘s retiring within a year, but he believes lower fees, in addition to a steep rise in corporate taxes, will not be good for the profession.

Alberta dentists have operated without a fee guide for two decades, allowing them to set their own prices.

The new fee guide under discussion will serve as a benchmark and not be mandatory. Hoffman said her talks with the Alberta Dental Association will continue next week.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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