High cost of dental procedures forcing many to skip visits

PETALING JAYA: With financial constraints and rising prices due to the Ukraine war and Covid-19 pandemic, many Malaysians, especially those in the B40 group, are being forced to ignore certain essential services, including dental health, due to the high cost of treatment.

While they could go to a government clinic, the long waiting period and need to make an appointment in advance are a deterrent.

The fees at private dental clinics also vary and are usually beyond what the public can afford.

A survey conducted by theSun found that some private dental clinics charge up to RM1,000 for an extraction.

A root canal procedure could go as high as RM3,500, while the cost for a complete set of dentures is about RM2,400.

However, on March 24, 2006, a dental fee structure signed by former health minister Tan Sri Dr Chua Soi Lek under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, recommended that costs for partial acrylic dentures should range between RM100 and RM1,000 while costs for dentures should range between RM250 and RM2,000.

Under the same Act, the fee for a non-surgical or simple extraction should be from RM40 to RM250, but a deciduous treatment should be below RM100.

Dental fees for amalgam restoration (filling) ranges between RM40 and RM300 while adhesive restoration (root canal) is between RM45 and RM600.

While living costs may have gone up since 2006, the fee structure charged by most dentists goes against the Act and may border on profiteering.

However, there are some dental clinics that continue to consider an individual’s financial situation when billing them for common procedures.

Dental specialist Dr Kasmah Mohamad, who runs a clinic at Puncak Alam in Shah Alam, said those who neglect their dental health are most likely to face more dental issues in the future, which will require them to spend more money on treatments.

“Of course, dental charges have increased. But if you don’t come for a regular check-up, you will have to spend more money on treatments due to the added damage caused by neglect. So, it’s better to have your teeth checked and any problems resolved at an early stage.

“I charge RM800 for a root canal job, but if it involves a procedure for two or three teeth, it will cost up to RM1,000 in total. However, patients do not need to pay up in one go as they can pay RM200 during each visit.

“My clinic charges RM1,600 for a full set of dentures. Patients can also pay half on the first visit and the rest when the dentures are ready. Some clinics charge RM250 and above for extraction but in my clinic, the fee for extraction and filling is from RM80 to RM180,” she said.

Kasmah, who is aware of the expensive dental treatments at some private clinics, said the upsurge was due to many factors.

“I’m sure the charges at dental clinics in Kuala Lumpur are more expensive because rental is much higher there. Clinics also need to pay for the parking lots allocated to them and competitive salaries for nurses.

“People don’t prefer government dental clinics because during my time, we had to do so many extractions before qualifying. But nowadays, students only do three extractions to get qualified,” she said.

Malaysian Dental Association president Dr Lim Chiew Wooi urged patients to seek clarification from their dentist on their disease, treatment plans and estimated cost.

“The complexity of a disease, the degree of difficulty to treat it, the clinic facilities and the experience and expertise of a dentist are among important factors that determine the fees.

“Patients should get clarification from the dentist on the treatment, alternative treatment plans and the estimated cost before commencing any dental work,” he said.

Some dental clinics consider an individual’s financial situation when billing them for common procedures (unrelated filepic).