A Vancouver dentist recently took over a downtown practice, and he’s charging 15% less for procedures than suggested in BC’s dental fee guide.
Dr. Ryan Eom says he’s not skimping on staff salaries or materials — he just thinks providing slightly more affordable dental care is worth cutting into his clinic’s revenue.
“It’s not going to be the perfect solution because I still have to charge 85% of the full fee, which is a lot of money for most people,” he told Daily Hive. “But maybe it will help.”
Eom is aiming to help two groups of people: those without dental insurance and those with insurance who need a lot of work done — much more than their insurance will cover.
“Three out of 10 people don’t have dental insurance … and they’re a lot less likely to visit the dental office because cost is a barrier for them,” he said.
Even if people have insurance, it usually has an annual limit — sometimes $2,000 per year, Eom said. For someone with severe dental issues, who has several cavities and needs root canals or crowns, a treatment plan could cost $10,000 or more.
“Your insurance is not going to help you that much. I wanted to be able to help those people as well,” Eom said.
BC’s dental fee guide sets out suggested costs for dental procedures in the province, but practitioners aren’t obligated to follow it. The fee guide suggests dentist charge $450.70 for a complete exam for an adult (including radiographs, scaling, polishing, and fluoride), but Eom’s clinic charges $383.10.
There are seven other reduced-cost clinics operating in Vancouver, but they often have restrictions on who can go. For example, Portland Community Dental Clinic is reserved for Downtown Eastside residents, and Mid-Main Dental gives a 10% discount only to those without insurance. Reach Dental only gives reduced fees to low-income patients or seniors, and UBC’s discounted general dentistry clinic closes during the summer.
What sets Eom’s clinic apart is it’s open to everyone — anyone who becomes a patient is eligible for 15% off regular dental fees.
He purchased West Georgia Dental Centre earlier this month and took over the practice last week. The Saskatchewan-trained dentist has been practicing for seven years and moved to Vancouver with his wife for the beautiful scenery and more lively city life.
Before opening the clinic, Eom posted about his idea on Reddit and the post was shared widely. He thinks the massive response speaks to the need for more affordable dental care in Canada.
“There’s huge, huge demand. Every day I’m coming to work, talking to patients, telling them how much something will cost, and almost every single time you have that discussion, money is probably the most important factor in terms of whether or not somebody can go ahead with treatment.”
Eom acknowledges his clinic can’t help everybody since its maximum patient roster is about 1,000 people.
Universal dental care has been a topic of discussion among politicians in recent years, but so far, the furthest the federal government has gotten is committing to basic coverage for uninsured people with a family income of $90,000 or less.
Eom sees universal dental care as a gargantuan task and one that would only work well if it’s done right and provides substantial coverage. He doesn’t predict that happening in Canada anytime soon.
“I’m not saying that one guy like me charging less is going to solve everything … but we just have to do the best that we can given what we have.”