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Dentist works to ease pain -- in wallet

Websites offer patients options to get best price

CLERMONT, Fla. – Not many people like a trip to the dentist, but one dentist  says he's making visits as painless as possible for patients -- and their wallet.

[WEB EXTRA:  Access to Care Resource Guide]

Before a patient sits down for a procedure, he or she has an idea of what the cost will be.

"Before we even start a procedure, they have a signed treatment plan that explains what the pricing is," Dr. Joseph Orlando, of Clermont Dental Group, said.

He said that's important because patients don't want a surprise bill at the end.

"A lot of patients are stressed enough to come to the dentist, so when they are finished and leave with being surprised, that puts a bad taste in their mouth," Orlando said.

According to the research firm Empirica, one of the top reasons that people give for not visiting the dentist is fear of not knowing the cost.

Dr. Bill D'Aiuto, vice president of the Florida Dental Association, thinks fees should be disclosed up front. 

"I think it's incumbent upon dental offices to let a person know exactly what the costs are," D'Aiuto said.

Costs can vary dramatically from dentist to dentist.

Local 6 checked with several local dentists and found that a basic cleaning costs from $60 to $200.

Fillings range from $100 to $400.

Crowns range from $600 to $1,300.

The problem with calling around for quotes is that you might not be comparing apples to apples.  There are lots of different materials that a dentist can use for crowns and fillings, from porcelain to composite resin.

"There is a great deal of care, skill and judgment put forth by the dental professional in order to recommend a proper material to suit the problem," D'Aiuto said.  "Without a diagnosis and examination, a patient really doesn't (know) what service would be required in order to serve them best."

So how do you know if the price you are quoted is fair or at least in the ballpark?  A new website called brighter.com allows patients to comparison shop and gives an average cost for a procedure in your ZIP code.

Another site to check rates is floridadentalcenter.com, which posts all the fees on its website. 

The quoted price, however, could go up.

"Another dentist may find something else related to that particular problem that may change the diagnosis there by the fee," D'Aiuto said.   "Ask questions.  Ask questions."

"Do what you feel comfortable in doing and don't get pressured into having any treatment done you don't feel comfortable with," Orlando said.