Indians looking at affordable dental care

Indians looking at affordable dental care
Dentistry is much talked about in India, especially about unaffordable, expensive dental care treatments and the dearth of dentists in the country. The need for dental insurances is also emphasised quite often in the country. As a fact, no health insurance company provides dental coverage to the consumer of dental services, burdening them with the unaffordability of dental care. This leads to a lack of complete oral solution to a maximum number of India’s population.

India has a population of around 1.3 billion, out of which we have 1,80,000 dentists to protect the oral health of Indians. Every year, around 30,000 dentists pass out of 300 dental colleges, including 35,000 specialists. Consequently, India has one dentist for 10,000 people in urban areas and one dentist for every 50,000 people in rural areas. But, the lack of dentists is not the major issue affecting the oral healthcare of Indians today.

Dental consumers or dental patients are really not concerned about the number of dentists as much as they are concerned about the accessibility and affordability of the treatment. They opt for the nearest and the most pocket-friendly dentist. The payment they are going to make in the dental clinic is the biggest thing that they care about.

Due to the lack of knowledge and awareness among public about oral healthcare, they select the dentist who can give them immediate treatment and relieve them out of their pain without charging them exorbitant prices. Nobody ventures to think about their health insurance or why is it that they cannot claim it for the coverage of their dental expenses.

India has 28 health insurance companies providing various health and medical plans to protect the health of individuals who have opted for insurance during the onset of financial and medical crisis. But, none of these health insurances give you any facility to cover your dental expenses.

The major reasons why insurance companies do not provide dental coverage are:  
Expensive dental treatments.

The reason behind expensive dental treatments are steeply priced dental equipment which are imported from the other countries. All the modern equipment used for dental treatments are imported from the US, and it is very soon expected to become one of the largest countries to market dental products and materials overseas.

India spends around $90 million annually only for importing dental products, equipment and materials and this number is expected to have 20% to 30% growth in the coming years, says a Desi Medicos report. As of now, the cost of dental equipment in India range differently depending on dental procedures, machines and instruments. Dental chair and hard equipment range from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.

Basic hand instruments, dental drills and X-Ray sensors cost around Rs 2 lakh to Rs 4 lakh. Other than this, there are many materials used for performing dental procedures which include dental drills, burs and filling materials. Dental drills cost around Rs 4,000 to Rs 20,000, single dental burs cost around Rs 500 to Rs 3,000 and filling materials cost around Rs 800 to Rs 7,000 only for three grams. The regular materials used like syringe and needle, dental forceps, local anaesthesia, cotton and other equipment cost around Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,500.

Apart from this, the general treatments which majority of the patients undergo cost extra, as they require different implements. Like the RCT, crowns and implantations cost around Rs 1,000 to Rs 10,000 for the materials and implementations used through the treatments.

Unavailability of fixed charges
In our country wherever you go, you can expect fixed price for every product you buy. Even in any other healthcare sectors, the charges applied to the treatments will be approximately the same. But, in the oral healthcare industry, you can never expect the charges to be the same everywhere. The charges applied to the dental care services will completely depend on the doctor and the hospital/clinic.

According to a survey conducted by Oral-B, 89% respondents in Delhi, 65% respondents in Bengaluru, 25% respondents in Kolkata and 19% respondents in Mumbai feel that India as a nation smiles less than other countries. About 76% of dentists agree with the statement that patients with poor oral hygiene tend to smile less.

Survey says, in India, only 21% pursue dental care, 48% of the people avoid it because of unaffordable dental treatments, 19% have a perception that they do not require dental care and the rest spend on dental care without complete information about all their options.

As a result, a number of studies and research has been conducted by the government of India. With the use of state-of-the-art technology, many strategies and new methodologies were applied by both health insurance companies and oral care industries.

Unfortunately, none of them proved to be successful in providing a complete oral solution. It is time that the Indian government, as well as the people in the private healthcare industry should take this as a major responsibility and come out with a solution to improve the present condition of oral healthcare and provide a complete oral solution at an affordable cost to every individual.

(The writer is MDS in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics at Orident)
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