According to Dr Avik Dandapat, British dental patients are paying over the odds for dental implants. The problem is so severe and so widespread that many patients resort to traveling abroad to find treatments they can afford. Why should that be? Is there a solution? Dr Dandapat thinks there is.
Dental implant costs to patients in the UK have traditionally been more expensive than in any other country in Europe, Asia or America. In many cases the cost for comparative treatment can be twice as much as other countries. For this reason over 10,000 UK patients a year travel as far as India and the USA to have dental implants and save money. Compared with our friends in the Euro zone just across the Channel, the UK is placing far fewer implant fixtures than any other European country.
The reason is simple: market forces have meant that the implant manufacturers have been able to get away with it. The vanity and relatively high standard of living of the British public, plus the associated higher laboratory costs, have kept prices high. But with the Internet breaking down global barriers and enabling the free exchange of information, the British public is now sufficiently well informed to know there is an alternative. As Britain emerges from the recent financial crisis, the problem for Britain’s dentists is likely to get worse unless action is taken.
“Our currency has been through a rough patch over the past 12 months but the worst is over and Sterling is now strengthening again,” he said. “As the Euro and US Dollar become cheaper once again, implant placements abroad become more attractive to our deal-seeking UK patients. The situation is compounded by the limited disposable income available to patients owing to the recession and general trend for implant companies to increase prices, whatever the economic weather.
Dr Dandapat believes it’s time for change. “Either the implant companies are going to support us through this recession or we’ll learn from our experiences and move on,” he said, adding that the UK price to a patient for a dental implant, abutment and crown varies from around £1,800 to £3,000 per tooth. In Europe the same treatment is available for approximately £1,100. “We can’t compete with that unless the implant manufacturers help us.”
“Slowly practitioners are starting to react to the situation,” he said. “A handful of implant centres around the UK are now charging between £1,200 and £1,500 for a complete implant and crown. I can tell you that this approach works. These practitioners are very busy. To look at them, you wouldn't even know we were in a recession.”
One implant manufacturer, DIO Implant of South Korea, is now operating in the UK. The company has been around for over 25 years and is one of the largest implant manufacturers in Asia. DIO has recently and correctly identified the gap in the UK market and is offering dental implants at prices less than half that of the most established of UK brands (e.g. DIO titanium RBM fixtures in the UK for under £98.00).
DIO itself has done comparisons with the competition. Taking an average of the prices of the most common UK brands (i.e. Noble Biocare, AstraTech, Ankylos, 3i and Straumann) and comparing the resultant component prices with the popular DIO SM implant, the figures are impressive. Including fixture, healing cap, angled abutment, impression cap, plastic coping and fixture analogue, the total average cost of UK brands works out at £481.42. The same shopping list from DIO is just £208.29 – a saving of over 56%.
The implant manufacturers have had it their own way for too long now and Dr. Dandapat believes that it’s time for a reality check. The efforts of manufacturers such as DIO just might be enough to kick-start a more sensible approach based on realistic prices and patient care rather than corporate profit.
Dr. Avik Dandapat BDS (Birm), MFGDP(UK) RCS eng, Dip.Imp.Dent RCS (Eng) is the principal dentist at The Dental Implant Centre, Berkshire; lectures for the Association of Dental Implantology (UK) across the country and runs hands-on courses teaching other dentists how to restore implants; and was a finalist for the 'Best Young Dentist' in the Dentistry Awards 2007.