Published on:

Without Comparison Shopping Excessive Dental Costs May Catch Seniors Off Guard

I am currently in the process of assisting one of my clients who is having issues with her teeth She is 86 years old. I was appointed as her Power of Attorney For Health Care. Recently, the nurse at the assisted living community where she resides informed me that her upper bridge had fallen out. It wasn’t something that could be fixed with a tube of Poligrip. It may have fallen out due to her experiencing some weight loss.. The nurse said she needed to see a dentist. I thought it was fortunate that the assisted living community had just announced the appointment of a new dentist who would visit the community, rather than having the resident travel to his office. Because it seemed so convenient and I didn’t want to agitate her by transporting her to the office, I quickly made an appointment.

After a conversation with the dentist, I requested a pre-treatment estimate for the future dental work. I was told that he was unable to do further work at the assisted living community because a set of x-rays needed to be taken. Furthermore, she had 9 teeth on the top that needed to be extracted. Her lower teeth needed to be deep cleaned. He wanted to build a new upper denture and charge for two adjustments. The bottom line costs would be close to $7,700. My heart sank when I saw the figure.

I called the dentist and asked if there was any financial relief available in his figures. His answer was that he could offer a payment plan but no rate reduction.

Please note that I am her Power Of Attorney For Health Care, not her finances. Because she has memory issues, all of her bills are paid by a Trust Company. But, I felt that the charges sounded very high. I obviously have a duty to preserve her finances while getting her the care she needs. She also wants to look nice. When I reviewed the costs with the Trust Officer, her response was, “Medicare will pick up the cost for most of this.” That assumption is incorrect. Medicare doesn’t pay for cleanings, fillings, or dentures.

I called the former Power of Attorney to find out what her past dental history had been like. I was informed that my client’s bridge was a temporary device. She would not allow the old dentist to install it permanently in her jaw. I was also informed that she was livid over the price which bordered on $10,000.

As a senior living advisor and certified care manager, I made a decision to have my own dentist give me an estimate for the same treatment plan. Here is what the side by side comparison revealed:
Assisted Living Dentist
1. 9 house calls @ $88 each = $792
2. X-rays-$150
Fluoride-$33 Other Drugs-$33 Diagnostic Casts-$125 Total – $431
3. One 2 surface filing-$350
4. Deep clean lower teeth-$350
5. 9 extractions upper teeth – $3,045
6. Upper Denture and 2 adjustments -$2,710
GRAND TOTAL = $7,678

My Dentist 1. Full Set of X-rays-$110 2. Cleaning and exam-$125 3. One 2-surface filing-$235 4. 9 extractions-$1,800 5. Upper denture with adjustments (free)-$1,600 GRAND TOTAL=$3,870

Later this week, I will have her transported to my dentist so that he can give me a second opinion via an exam and a set of x-rays. My client is having no problems with eating and she objected to the expense of the treatments of her prior dentist. I will use substituted judgment on her behalf and proceed only with the most cost effective treatments.

My question is, “What happens to unsuspecting seniors when they don’t have anyone to look out for them?” You know the answer.

For all your senior living needs, call Andrea Donovan Senior Living Advisors.