As a dental practitioner, I was nothing less than horrified and disappointed to read the article by Sam Landsberger published in the Herald Sun on 26 May 2014.
The notion that West Coast midfielder Elliot Yeo was to foot a $70,000 lifetime bill for the repair or replacement of his traumatised two front teeth was, in my opinion, a matter of a journalist relying on questionable “expert” advice.
Firstly, the “leading dentist” who provided all the advice and costings was not named in the article and the adverse ripple effects of such unaccountable comments may be far reaching. Consequences can be expected to include damage to the reputation of hard-working local clinicians trying their best, each and every day, to provide their patients with both service and value, as well as further disenchanting thousands of Australians in need of urgent dental care who may avoid the dentist for longer due to financial fears.
I am principal dentist of Smile Solutions, the largest dental practice in the country. As official dentists to the Collingwood Football Club, our practice services the dental needs of the Collingwood players, and importantly our team of Dental Board–registered specialists manages dental trauma incidents experienced by the players.
On game day, I was seated no more than 30 metres from the incident. I was close enough to witness Yeo’s two upper central incisors flying through the air after contact with Witts’ right shoulder. My first reaction was to wonder why he was not wearing a mouthguard. In my analysis, it was the unfortunate angle of the collision rather than its sheer force that caused the bulk of the damage. A well-constructed mouthguard, in this type of collision, would have protected Yeo from any serious dental trauma.
In response to the specific remarks made in the article I have the following to say.
1. As a worst case scenario (both clinically and financially speaking), the permanent replacement, in this instance, of both front teeth with titanium implants would cost in the order of $11,000. This outlay would provide “the best money can buy” treatment available in Australia. At Smile Solutions, it would involve only experienced specialist care – with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon removing the fractured root stumps, a periodontist (gum specialist) surgically placing the implants, and a prosthodontist (crown specialist) inserting the two porcelain crowns onto the implants. It would involve clinicians practising in accordance with the high standards demanded by Australian Dental Board specialist accreditation, the finest ancillary team, the best equipment and implant materials available globally, and local master ceramists fabricating the crowns.
2. The lifetime maintenance of the implants would not differ financially from maintenance of one’s own natural teeth. The only additional expenditure would be the replacement of the two crowns for cosmetic reasons – usually on average every 15 years or so at a cost of $4,500 for both teeth at today’s prices. With the advent of technology, all indications are that this price may reduce over the years rather than increase significantly.
3. If either or both of the root stumps could be saved by conventional root canal treatment in the care of an endodontist (root canal specialist), the overall financial cost of the treatment would be further reduced.