Periodontitis treatment cost - why is it so much?

Saving your gums might cost you an arm and a leg at a traditional dentist. But it doesn't have to be this way.

If you have been diagnosed with periodontitis and are motivated to address it, then you are on the right track! Periodontitis is a disease in your gums where an active infection is damaging the gum and bone tissue below your gum line.

That damage is irreversible, so the faster you can stop periodontitis the better for your short- and long-term health. However, the sticker price of periodontal therapy and other treatments for gum disease might give you pause. 

Is it normal for me to pay $1,000 or more for this treatment?

If you go to a traditional dentist then, yes, dropping a grand on periodontal therapy is the norm.

Gum disease treatment cost per quadrant - what does that mean?

In New York City, traditional dentists charge on average $350 per quadrant for periodontal therapy. 

Hold up … per quadrant…what does that mean? That is a great question. This is best illuminated through a few handy dandy illustrations.

Your mouth has a top and bottom, which the dental peeps out there like to call "arches" because they look like, you guessed it, arches

Dental arches

If you divide each arch into two segments, then you have four sections in the entire mouth, hence the term "quadrant." This is how your teeth are distributed between quadrants:

Oral quadrants

Now back to the cost - if each quadrant costs $350 for periodontal therapy, then full mouth periodontal therapy can cost you upwards of $1,400. That's a ton of C-notes! 

Who can we thank for this ridiculous approach? As with most things confusing in healthcare, we can thank the insurance giants for this. We spent significant time looking into the origin story of why insurance companies reimburse per quadrant (which is why dentists bill per quadrant) and sadly we came up empty handed. So as far as we can tell, it's a ruse by the insurance companies to weasel out of paying for as much periodontal therapy as they can. 

Scaling and root planing cost will be arbitrarily high at a traditional dentist

Thanks to this quadratic craziness, your bill for periodontal therapy might be inflated, causing you to pay more for your therapy than somebody whose mouth is in worse shape.

The price you pay for periodontal therapy depends on where in your mouth the teeth are located that need periodontal therapy. 

Let say you and your neighbor are both diagnosed with periodontitis and you both have eight (8) teeth that require periodontal therapy. You both go to the same dentist, and then you each get your bills:

  • You owe: $1,100
  • Your neighbor owes $350

You might be thinking, "what the actual DUCK?"

It all comes back to those quadrants and where your teeth are located among the quadrants. Your neighbor whose mouth looked like this paid $350 for periodontal therapy:

And let's say your mouth looked like this and you paid $1,100 for periodontal therapy:

Location, location, location. That's how two people with the exact same number of teeth needing periodontal therapy end up paying dramatically different prices for the same service.

Yup, it's arbitrary, frustrating, and definitely not designed for real people like you. But we guarantee it makes your old-school dentist's income statement look even better when your periodontitis isn't concentrated in one quadrant. 

The traditional dentist doesn't have any reason to change their tune. Why should they? There is a ton of incentive to charge per quadrant to maximize the return on your disease. 

D4241 dental code decoded

When you get your bill from the dentist, it's going to have the CDT code "D4341." Even if you don't use insurance, dentists use this code because it fits nicely into their ledger among all their insured patients.

If you're paying cash in New York you'll probably get billed ~$350 per quadrant. However, if you're using insurance don't put your wallet away just yet. Most insurance plans have a co-pay for periodontal therapy, and the best plans cover up to 80%, leaving you on the hook for at LEAST 20% of the bill (if not more) in addition to your copay.

Periodontal disease treatment cost doesn't have to be so high

Are you gritting your teeth? We were and this is one of the reasons we come to work every damn day at Wally. 

The traditional system is built on legacy decisions made by insurance companies and old-school dentists from the 1960s and 1970s. None (or hopefully none) of those people are still working today. So why blindly follow the same stale approach to oral health?

At Wally, we do periodontal therapy (and pretty much everything else) different than the traditional dentist. We chuck the quads out the window and charge per tooth, saving our members 75% or more on periodontal therapy. 

Then we make it insanely easy to keep your mouth healthy and avoid more therapy through unlimited cleanings. That's right. Rather than put you on the hampster wheel of frequent periodontal therapy we work to keep you healthy. That's just what happens when you redesign an industry that hasn't changed in 50+ years. 

If you're in NYC check if our membership is right for you. Our first studio is open, and we're just getting started revolutionizing dental care. We hope you'll join us.

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