Have you got a gripe about your dentist?

We’re working an article about dentists and the cost of dental services. We’d like to know what your biggest gripe with dental care is? Or have you got a burning question about the dental sector?

To get you started, we’d love it if you shared your ideas and/or experiences (both good and bad!) on any of the following:

  • your health fund’s dental centre or a dentist associated with your dentist
  • unexpected high bills from a dentist
  • unexpectedly small refund from your health fund
  • shopping around for a cheaper dentist
  • tips on how to make sure your dental bill stays within your budget

I have no complaints about my dentist. He does good work, does not over service and is flexible enough to be able to fit you in if you have an emergency like a broken tooth or a lost filling. My only complaint is about the cost of any dental work from a check up to a crown. I do not have ‘extras’ on my health insurance which means I am up for almost $200 for a check-up and clean every six months. The last crown I needed to have cost over $4000. Even simple fillings can cost $300-400. All very well if you are employed in a good job. What happens if you aren’t? I have never understood why dental work is so expensive. Surely it cannot be simple greed from ALL dentists!

Thank you Karen, yes that is a very good question - has anyone found a good and non expensive dentist?

I am with HCF and have all my dentist work done at their George Street rooms. I had one of my back teeth capped by a dentist who seemed to me, to take a very long time to do the job. I feel that it is not a quality finish as I have a sharp edge protruding on the inside of my mouth. When I have queried it on return clean up visits the dentist says that it is fine! I just wonder if they are covering up for the dentist who did the work?

Thank you John, that is concerning. Wonder what experiences others have made with their health fund’s dentist?

The best dental care (and possibly the cheapest) I have received was from a dentist at Sydney University (not at the academic clinic, just a dentist in the University precinct). I chipped a front tooth due to grinding my teeth during sleep and had a repair made to the back half of a front tooth on my bottom jaw. Anyway the repair lasted for about 2 weeks before falling out. I knew this because I could feel the sharp edge with my tongue. I went back and they made a new repair, which again lasted about 2 weeks. I then had a 3rd appointment where they used a stronger compound (which was probably more expensive or difficult to use since it wasn’t use the first 2 times). This repair has now lasted for nearly 20 years. The reason why I rate this as my best care was that the dentist only charged me for the first appointment. The seconds and third appointments were cost free. I really appreciated the care and effort taken to make sure the work was up to standard and met my needs.
On the other hand the worst care I have ever received was from a dentist who thought it was a good idea to show me how to brush my teeth better as I wasn’t pressing hard enough to get all the plaque off (in his opinion) and thus had soft gums. Cut a long story short, after this ‘demonstration’ I had ulcerated gums and bleeding for about 2 weeks and had to see another dentist to rectify the issue. I thought about complaining to the professional association but didn’t know how to go about this at the time.
As far as dental costs go I generally find that extras insurance cover only pays 30-50% of dental costs. It does make me wonder about the usefulness of extras cover and the overall cost of dental care. I manage my dental costs by attending an aligned clinic.

Not our current Dentist, that was just down the road but I have traveled far and wide and found that the majority of dentists are failing to do a good job. They get you in to their chair, find a new cavities, repaired those in a haphazard way and get you to come back for more unnecessary work. Our current dentist works for Q dental and I have never been happier with the treatment nor the plan she uses to make my smile radiant. Yes, I would not know if the procedures were necessary for me but they did rectify a problem I have had for a couple of years. I feel relaxed and confident that she does a good job. Compared to many others she has done more to restore my faith in the dental system with her actually showing me what needs to happen. That is the only action I can go on. I am that confident with her ability, I recommended to my wife she go and see her. I sure got some brownie points after my wife’s first visit.

Hi Uta,

I have concerns about the manner in which you have gone about asking for information for this article.

“Have you got a gripe about your dentist?” suggests that you are looking for negative responses, rather than attempting to seek a balanced perspective. I am sure I am not alone in expecting better from Choice.

Comments like “The last crown I needed to have cost over $4000. Even simple fillings can cost $300-400.” really need to be backed up with copies of invoices. Karen Seager may have been to a high-fee dentist, but as the figures she quotes are well above the average fees presented in the annual ADA fee survey, I feel she may be mistaken.

Ian Mac’s report that “They get you in to their chair, find a new cavities, repaired those in a haphazard way and get you to come back for more unnecessary work.” speaks volumes.

Uta, please could Choice consider using methods such as Survey Monkey to get meaningful feed-back from a regular cohort of members in order to avoid responses with an extreme degree of bias?

I would also encourage you to take the time to pick up the phone and speak to either your State branch of the ADA or the Federal ADA should you have specific concerns which you wish to have addressed.

Dentists consistently rate highly in the annual Roy Morgan Image of Professions surveys. I am sure that would not be the case if “the majority of dentists are failing to do a good job” as Ian Mac claims.

I am happy to chat with you about this should you wish to gain a little more insight into my profession from my perspective.


Rob Sivertsen BDS.

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My last dentist visit was at Glebe Dental Group. I was told (not asked) that they would need to do several x-rays to create my new patient file. I asked if we could proceed without X-rays, mainly because I’d had a lot of x-ray exposure already that year for other reasons. They were pushy about the X-rays and patronising about my concerns. I relented and paid for them. It was funny, after all the condescension about how absolutely safe it is, to see them scurry out of the room before the machine takes the X-rays.
Then during the check-up I was told (not asked) that I need to have all my wisdom teeth removed. She even began scheduling an appointment for me with an oral surgeon, and when I questioned her about why they need to be removed, she was again rude and patronising. As though I was an idiot to question it. Of course they have to be removed. They’re wisdom teeth. What don’t you understand??
Some brief research suggests that if you’re over 30 and your wisdom teeth haven’t caused any problems yet, there’s no pressing need to spend thousands of dollars having them ripped out. I was open to being told otherwise, but all I got was this very unconvincing “just in case” argument. I mean, my appendix could get infected too, I’m not having anyone cut it out of me “just in case”.
It would be really nice to find a dentist who gives you the information you need to make decisions, rather than trying to make them for you. I mean, I can put up with the teeth-shaming, the patronising demonstrations of flossing technique, even attacking my gums with sharp metal things and then trying to tell me I’m bleeding because I don’t brush properly. But I can’t stand being talked down to and pushed into things with no explanation.

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I have had a dreadful run of dental problems …or should Isay “problem dentists”. It is a long story so in brief:
I went to a random dentist when I had extreme tooth pain. He literally asked “do you want a root canal or for me to extract it?” …I asked for an explanation of both so I could make a decision and he said “well it is just up to you. What ever you want”. I didn’t really understand my options, so I opted for a root canal, but he sent me off with inadequate info of when to come back and what was going to happen next. I rang his receptionists to find out when to come back but they were vague and unsure too, so I went to a different dental clinic.

This new dentist discovered that the first dentist had really not drilled deep enough at all. He was a good and compassionate dentist, but unfortunately he fell ill so he got his associate to finish the procedure a week or two later. His associate BROKE A PIECE OF METAL INSTRUMENT IN MY TOOTH AND NEGLECTED TO ACCURATELY TELL ME THAT THIS HAD HAPPENED!!! Months and months later when I went back to the same clinic because my tooth still hurt I was booked in with yet another dentist. He told me to just wait and see how it goes (and didn’t mention the bit of metal still in my tooth).

I then I developed a range of health problems including pain and neuralgia on that side of my face, vertigo, fevers and hot flushes and increasingly frequent and severe heart palpitations. I saw several doctors and, tried a number of medications. After many weeks of symptoms, my blood tests revealed that I had an infection, and my doctor then suspected that it was probably all from a dental problem. Fortunately, my heart palpitations disappeared after about a day of antibiotics, though the other symptoms persisted. I rang the dentist daily for several days asking for an urgent appointment, but they kept telling me that they had none. I was feeling really unwell by this stage. I reluctantly accepted an appointment for several days later. Fortunately, I then called another clinic who arranged to see me within hours, so I rang and cancelled the appointment with the previous clinic. On the day of my cancelled appointment the previous clinic then rang me and rudely accused me of not turning up to my appointment! ….she was really quite rude about it! They then called me again a few months later and got quite short with me when I said that I didn’t want to book in for my regular check up!

The new dentist I saw took an x-ray and informed me to my surprise that there was a piece of metal in one tooth root and another tooth root had been completely missed! They are a really skilled, professional and caring clinic. I think they felt sorry for me and gave me quite a few free consults during the process to undo the damage of the last clinic. It took many many hours to correct. This new clinic has my business for life!

It amazes me both how a dental clinic got so many things so wrong, and how much dental problems can affect the rest of your health. I understand that all health professionals make mistakes ……BUT they have to discuss these with their patients! I also think that it is unfair that Medicare doesn’t cover “health related”dental care. The whole episode cost me many thousands of dollars.


I find dentists charge to much in Aust. and have for about 5 years had my dental done overseas, I would love to support Aussie but i resent the prices we pay

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Hi Rob,

@robsiv Are you a dentist? I would love to talk to you, please contact me on money@choice.com.au. Please be assured that we write our articles based on wide ranging deep research, posts like this and on Facebook are very helpful for us as they show us what members are concerned about but we do not treat them like a survey.



Thank you very much everyone for your detailed and great responses, please keep them coming.


I always have had a dental/bone problems due to a decease which causes problems with calcium built up. I have a partial dental plate (bottom jaw) the last few natural teeth that are holding the plate in place, will have to be removed. Due to the difficulty of a full lower dental plate staying in place, the dentist recommended a few implants to hold the plate in place. Sounded great but when I was told the cost I have no choice but to decline this option. The cost is $35000 (yes thats thousands and my car did not cost as much) and my health fund does not cover any of it as it is cosmetic. The whole thing is ridiculous.

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Since moving to Tasmania I have had a lot of trouble finding a good Dentist they are very few and far betwen to the extent that I had been flying back to Sydney for dental work as I have always had dental problems.
Some months ago I tripped falling flat on my face ,pushing a partial denture up into the roof of my mouth and breaking off remainder of front teeth.I was taken to local hospital to remove the denture and then sent onto a Dental Clinic which I am happy to say is much cheaper and giving much better teatment. The Dentist who I had been attending was a very nice person but in my view not a good dentist and quite expensive…

Every interaction I’ve had with dentists has been fraught. Some twenty years ago I had a molar remove and some tooth material left in the socket. Four days later I was back with a very painful abscess, the same dentist removed some more of the tooth material - and then charged me for it. After threatening him with legal action, he withdrew the fee. Now, twenty years later, it turns out that there’s STILL some material in there, causing me pain, headaches, infections, and grief. That dentist is still practising but there’s a statute of limitations I guess, so I won’t get a cent for almost a decade of discomfort and pain.

The next time I saw a dentist they wanted to clean all my teeth rather than do the work I asked them to do, I most specifically directed them to just do the worl I asked for, they cleaned all the teeth first anyway saying it was just the site they were working on but then - surprise - it was charged for on the bill as a complete clean. Paid it as they’d done the work, but never went back there again either. Oh and the job I asked them to do? I had to have that re-done a few months later.

More recently, I had to have a tooth pulled and the dentist injected anaesthetic three times over the space of fifteen minutes, which is pretty close to the limit of toxicity for that particular injection as far as I know. He spent maybe 90 seconds in the room each time, then wandered off. Finally he was satisfied, pulled the tooth in another 90 seconds, and charged us around $200 for that scant five minutes’ work.

Come to think of it, the first dentist I ever saw wasn’t such a great dentist either, he managed to stick the anaesthetic needle THROUGH my cheek from the inside out and squirt the nurse with whatever that stuff is. Talk about giving a nine year old kid any confidence in dentists…

My wife recently had a bad tooth, went to a rapid response dentist who mucked around and cleaned here and there, then decided what tooth needed to be pulled, and said they’d do that on the NEXT visit, meanwhile a married pensioner couple had to find almost a quarter of their fortnightly income to pay that first bill and the second one was going to be much more. Went to a newer dentist surgery and they a) removed the tooth right there and then, and b) did it for less than the cost of the other one’s initial visit.

The practices they employ are now several hundred years old and they’ve only made cosmetic changes, slightly different anaesthetics, same tools but now made with titanium in place of stainless steel, and so forth. That’s like car manufacturers still selling Stanley Steamers but with a petrol burner in place of the coal burner…

If dentists want to earn big money and big respect they really need to lift their game.

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Thirty five years ago in Tasmania I lost a piece of filling. I saw a dentist who told me I needed 7 fillings. I was terribly dismayed because I always went for checkups but thought it must have been because of having recently had a baby. I went the next day to have some repaired and was worried because the dentist drilled huge holes in two teeth either side of my mouth. Then I had to return the next day for the others. There was a different dentist there who said the first dentist had got married so was away. He said I didn’t need any work done! I then went to a different practise where the dentist also said I didn’t need any work done. I then called the Dentist Board in Hobart and went in to see them. Once again, nothing needed doing. However, they did tell me the dentist had been having a breakdown and that she was in the good care of her husband and not practising right then!!!
Ten years later I had to have both those teeth removed and ended up with a root canal and a bridge. In Melbourne, the bridge was attached to the two side teeth and consequently, after it broke off and was replaced to just one tooth, which then also broke, I have ended up losing three on that side and having to have an implant. All very expensive and should not have happened if that dentist had not been allowed to continue practising when they obviously knew she was ill.

Since then I have been amazed at the lack of care and sometimes ineptitude at the dentists I have seen…not all were bad but they unfortunately moved or stopped practising. I had Mercury removed by a dentist (now discredited and banned as a dentist for some serious reasons) who did not use a dam (?) and was too interested in his computer to be bothered with me. Another who spent the whole visit virtually regaling his nurse with his wonderous deeds in his capacity as a leader in his community and replaced a filling on the wrong side of my mouth; another who’s receptionist on two separate occasions made appointments for me, written on a card, but who said I didn’t have an appointment. When I also pointed out that a locum at the practise had repeated x-Ray’s which had been done the visit before and charged, of course, I was told by the dentist, “Well, what do you want me to do about it?!”.

Then there are the ones where you make an appointment, go along, they look at what you want done, such as a filling replace, then tell you to make another appointment to have it done. The next to last one I went to said I had an infection in the root of my back tooth but did nothing. Sometimes I think they just think they will leave small things because they will turn in to something big …like having to have the tooth out and having an implant or root canal.

I just wish I could find one I could trust to do the work that needs to be done when I go and not be just using me seemingly as a cash cow. Have you ever known a poor dentist?

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No gripes about any particular dentist, but certainly I have gripes about dentists in general. I think they have priced themselves out of the market.

Due to medical issues that have now been stabilised I have suffered a higher rate of decay than is usual and needed extensive dental work. I consulted several dentists in Australia and found that quotes to address my issues were all in the $80k - $100k range (if they quoted at all), and that was for about 2/3rds of the work that needed to be done. Most were dismissive, I can only guess that they thought that I was wasting their time, thinking that I would never pay those sorts of $$$, and when prices were revealed, they were right!. They also indicated treatment would take 18 months and the gave many caveats and couldn’t guarantee the work.

After some very careful research, I made a booking at a Thai clinic and booked tickets. That was 4 months ago and things could not be better! I had . . .
12 Crowns,
5 implants,
6 molars extracted
5 days free accommodation at the clinic’s own 4 star hotel,
All transport to and from clinic for every appointment by car & driver,
Pickup/drop off at airport by car & driver,
A staff member assigned to me to ensure that I had no problems while overseas, and not limited to dental issues.
I was given a full guarantee

All details were handled by the clinic and the level of care they provided is unheard of for an Australian dentist (IMHO), certainly at the prices I paid. 10 days in Bangkok, all done. Now 4 months out and all is well, I’ll go back and have the work completed in a few months (implants need time to bind to bone).

I spent about $22,000 in total, which includes tickets, treatment, and all expenses while outside Aus. I will spend a further $4500 to finish the work.
End result is a mouthful of strong white teeth and the resumption of eating many things I have given up on.

Clinic? State of the art, meticulous hygiene, international practice standards, caring compassionate staff.

Future check-ups and maintenance along with a week in Thailand, here I come! B)

Not on your list, but how to pick a good dentist? Was unlucky enough to have work done by a not very thorough one, all of which was later pulled out and done again more extensively (knew someone who worked at the practice so it wasn’t just me, they had plenty of his patients return later with problems).
Now, after a great dentist for a decade, I’ve moved, wish they provided referrals! No idea where to start.

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