A $2.2 million family dentist bill in the San Jose area is a reminder that the cost of dentistry in California is a huge barrier for many families.
A group of dentists and dental students from Los Angeles College of Dental Medicine and the University of California at San Francisco released a report Monday that detailed how the cost for family dental care in the Golden State is among the highest in the country.
The report is the first from the California Association of Dents and Surgeons and it said the average family dentist’s salary was $150,000 last year.
A large majority of dentist-related expenses are covered by Medicare, according to the report.
“California families pay an average of $6,500 for dental care annually, with the highest spending being at the family dental office,” according to a statement released by the association.
“This is more than double the national average of just $3,500.”
It also said the cost per visit for family dentist visits in San Francisco County in 2016 was $7,200.
“We were shocked at how expensive this can be for many of our families,” said Dr. William Crouch, a pediatric dentist in San Jose who also works as an adjunct professor at the University at Buffalo School of Dentistry.
“It’s just one of those things where we’re paying for services that are going to be needed in our family.”
Crouch said he had to take out an emergency loan to help pay for a year of his dental practice to comply with California’s dental tax law.
He said the state also charges higher rates for emergency dental care.
“What it means is that we have to spend more money on dental care and services than what the federal government is asking for,” Crouch added.
“And the only way to do that is by cutting the number of people getting emergency dental.”
Crop circles are a common problem in California.
The area is known for its arid climate and growing population, which means people are spending more time outdoors than they used to.
The cost of the most recent annual dental bill, for example, is $744.
That includes $200 for dental cleaning and $50 for a dental extractor.
“Dental office bills can be so expensive, we are surprised that we can’t find a dentist in our area who can provide our family the care we need,” said Crouch.
The dental association said many of the California residents who rely on dental services don’t have enough income to pay the bills, even with their federal Medicaid payments.
“If the dentist can’t come by on a regular basis to fill your dental needs, you are paying the bill,” Cope said.
“But if you can’t afford to pay your bill and the dentist cannot come by regularly, then you are going bankrupt.”
The dental group said the bill would be passed on to the patient, who could either wait for a while or file a claim.
California is one of the few states that doesn’t have an annual limit on the amount of federal Medicaid dollars that a dental plan can use for dental services.
Crouch told the AP he plans to pursue legal action to ensure his dental services are covered under his insurance.
“I’m trying to make sure the insurance company does what they’re supposed to do,” Crop said.