A peer-reviewed journal that offers evidence-based clinical information and continuing education for dentists.

Patients Are Concerned with Cost of Dental Care

Explore key insights from the 2023 Synchrony Dental Lifetime of Care study to better understand patient concerns about the affordability of oral healthcare services


For many patients, dentistry is a part of their healthcare routine. They come in every 6 to 12 months for an exam and preventive hygiene care. When there is an issue, they may have insurance to contribute to the cost, savings, or another means to pay their out-of-pocket expenses. But for others, paying for care — particularly unexpected costs — is a concern.

Here are a few key data points from the 2023 Synchrony Dental Lifetime of Care study, available at dentallifetimeofcare.com, that may provide dental teams with insights to help patients who are reluctant to schedule ongoing hygiene or accept much-needed dentistry.

Perception of Affordability May be a Barrier

One of the key findings of the Synchrony Dental Lifetime of Care study was that 58% of respondents said dental care is not affordable. The study found the average out-of-pocket cost for an adult ages 20 to 79 is $51,000 to $95,000+. This includes dental benefit premiums but does not encompass more complex treatments such as implants, veneers, and orthodontics.

Part of this perception may be previous dental experiences or patients not fully understanding dental costs and their benefits. The study found:

  • 46% of respondents indicated they were not ready/​prepared for their largest out-of-pocket dental expense, which ranged from exams to implants.
  • Only 30% find understanding dental health expenses easy.
  • Half of respondents who had insurance did not know their annual maximum.

Dentists, their teams, and the dental industry as a whole are in the perfect position to improve patient understanding of the costs associated with dental health and the critical role it plays in their overall health. They can also help patients gain clarity around the cost of treatment and how their insurance benefits contribute to the cost of care.

To help, CareCredit created WellU — carecredit.com/​wellu — a robust library of information that includes costs for dental procedures from crowns, chipped teeth, and dentures to periodontal disease, implants and orthodontics; whether they are typically covered by insurance; and average national costs.

Perception of Affordability May Affect Behavior

Another key data point from the study was about intended behavior, meaning survey respondents were given a particular scenario and asked to respond based on what they believe they would do. The two data points that may link perception of affordability to patient behavior are:

  • 30% of respondents said they would hold off on dental care if the cost was $500 or less
  • 52% would hold off on dental care if cost was $1,000 or less

The good news is that at the point-of-care decision, the team has the ability to educate patients on costs and benefits as mentioned above and provide payment options that can help make the care more affordable — like the CareCredit credit card. Of the study participants, 58% indicated they would probably or definitely choose a payment option that provided predictable set equal payments. When you provide patients with education and payment options, you may help pave the road to good oral health.

Note: This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) make no representations or warranties regarding this content and accepts no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

Care Credit

From Decisions in Dentistry.November/December 2023; 9(10):19

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