Why you could see an extra fee at your next dentist appointment

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INDIANAPOLIS — Have you been to the dentist lately? The offices look different since the pandemic, and your bill might too.

Some practices are charging for personal protective equipment (PPE) now.

“Our supplies are very hard to get to,” said Dr. Natalie Atkinson of Atkinson Family Dental in Hamilton County.

She said these pieces of PPE are necessary to keep people safe from COVID-19. That’s why every dental office in the country is requesting more and more. It’s in high demand and expensive.

“The pricing of everything has doubled,” said Atkinson.

So, she is taking insurance companies up on their offer to help with the cost of PPE. Not all of them do but she said the ones who agreed are allowing it until at least September.

“We submit to insurance, we are going to get what we get and if we don’t, then we don’t charge the patient,” said Atkinson.

Viewers tell us other offices are charging the patients directly.

“It is not unreasonable that they would set an “X” amount of dollars that they would need the patients to cover to take care of some of those expenses,” explained Atkinson in defense of the offices who will put the charge of PPE on patients.

Rachael Crawford of Mooresville said her office did charge her.

“They told me over the phone firsthand that they would be charging an extra ten dollars for all of the gear that they have to start wearing and buying,” said Crawford.

She said she didn’t love the extra fee, but she understands.

“It’s the risk you’re gonna take if you want to get your teeth cleaned,” said Crawford.

The main thing she appreciated was the warning she received. There’s no requirement to tell you about the extra charge, but some do anyway.

“Very glad that they told me,” said Crawford.

“It’s good to give them a heads up and just let them know this is our practice it’s what we are doing to cover costs at this time,” added Atkinson.

The Indiana Dental Association released the following statement about these charges:

The American Dental Association and IDA encourage dental offices to be upfront about charging extra for PPE so that patients aren’t surprised by any unanticipated charges. Enhanced PPE is essential for the safety of patients and staff alike to prevent the spread of COVID, but unfortunately, some dentists around the country have reported paying as much as ten times more for gloves, masks and gowns than they paid before the pandemic. Most dental insurance providers, as well as Indiana Medicaid, have not increased their service reimbursements to accommodate these increased costs.

Indiana Dental Association

Not every dental office is charging more for PPE. For those who are, so far, the fees have been anywhere between $10 and $20.

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