Dental Management: Annual Dental Fee Increase

Post comments about dentist annual fee increases to our blog.

Dentist schedules: 55% are open lateDentists are postponing their annual dental fee increases because of the economy, found our survey. Just over half (54%) report that they have raised fees in the past 12 months. For 44%, it’s been over a year since their last fee increase. And 2% have even lowered fees.

The average fee increase reported by dentists was about 4.5%. Notably, not a single pediatric dentist reported raising fees this year. "I’m holding fees steady this year," said one pediatric dentist. "Economy and all."

Dental consultants recommend raising dental fees yearly (or even more frequently). Though dentists are sometimes reluctant (sometimes fearing existing patients will leave to find a dentist with lower fees), this is an essential dental management issue.

Here are some comments from dentists about increasing dental fees:

Some just can’t raise dental fees this year

  • "Didn't feel like we could with everyone hurting so bad.” (Kansas dentist)
  • “Difficult to raise fees during these difficult economic times.” (New Jersey dentist)
  • “I've had patients leaving to find a network dentist for a few dollars savings. A fee increase does not seem wise or humane.” (Texas dentist)
  • “We are already the highest in the area. In this economy, a fee increase may not be best decision.”

What about reducing dental fees?

  • “In a down market, reducing fees can offer a competitive advantage.” (California periodontist)

About to increase fees

  • “I usually do an annual increase, but have not this year. Will raise them next month, but a minimal 2%.” (Louisiana dentist)
  • “We are going to increase fees in March by 3%. It is a necessity.” (New Jersey dentist)
  • “Will be increasing fees 5% this fall.”
  • "I will do it again soon, in small increments, because overhead rises.” (New Jersey dentist raising fees 1%)

Cherry-pick which fees you raise

  • “Don’t increase across the board. Some up, some the same.” (Periodontist)
  • “Fees were selectively raised- not across the board.” (Washington dentist)
  • "Some we lowered, some stayed the same, but most went up 5%.”

Dentists’ costs are rising

  • “We have to respond to our vendor fee increases, and waiting will just make it worse.”
  • “I need to keep up with rising expenses. Fee for service practice. Used the NDAS 2010 as a guideline.” (Periodontist raising fees 3-15%)
  • “Costs go up, and therefore fees must go up too. However, we regularly give substantial discounts on larger cases. You've got to know what you can do it for and still make a good profit. Then everyone wins!” (California dentist raising fees 8% this year)
  • “Once you are sure your fees are in the proper percentile for your area and reflect the level of care you provide, you should increase them annually. The
    majority of costs are increasing, so fees should as well.” (Minnesota dentist)

A dental management balancing act

  • “This has been a tough balancing act. On the one hand I feel like I should keep my fees lower because patients are having a harder time financially. On the other hand all of my expenses keep going up. For some large cases I have actually negotiated with the lab ahead of time so that we could keep fees low enough for the patient to be able to accept the case.” (Oregon dentist)
  • “Although we have raised our default fees, my fees are primarily based on the complexity and difficulty of the case.” (Dental implant dentist)

Consider your own economic reality

  • “Staff realized how important it was and influenced me! I was hesitant at this time, but they insisted because of how expenses are increasing, etc, not because they want raises. It is because they know the difficulties of today running a practice and are committed. I am fortunate!”
  • “Will be meeting soon to review our costs and the economic situation." (North Carolina oral surgeon)

Do it every year

  • “This year I raised them 5%, similar last year The demand for my services is high.” (West Virginia TMJ dentist)
  • “My fees will go up next year as well." (General dentist)
  • “I raise mine 4-5% per year, every year, to keep up with inflation. To not do so is to give yourself a pay decrease.” (Kentucky dentist)
  • “Do it same time each year, either annually or semi-annually. Our recall fees go up every January. Patients understand that costs go up and (as long as moderate) your fees do as well.”
  • “Once per year we increase fees at least 3 to 4% to keep up with annual inflation. A few fees are increasing more than 4%. For example, our gold dental crown fees have increasing more than 4% per year over the past few years due to the quickly rising cost of gold. The cost of running a business never decreases, so why should dental fees decrease or remain the same year after year? Increasing fees 3-4% per year to cover inflation prevents us from having to make bi-annual or tri-annual larger jumps in fees and also keeps patients happy." (Ohio prosthodontist)

Skipping some years

  • “We did not increase fees at the beginning of 2009 and used our 2008 fees for the entire year. We raised them 3% for 2010.”
  • “We waited for 3 years to raise fees between 4-10%. There was practice instability, but since we moved, we raised fees in July of 2009, and we are looking to raise them again.”
  • “We raised them 7% this year, but we had held the line for 2 years without a fee increase. Instead we tried to make cost savings choices, not replace a retiring worker, etc. However, we did not find decreases in lab costs, insurance, rent, supplies, etc.”
  • “It had been nearly 3 years since I raised fees. I REALLY needed to do so at this time!!” (Kansas dentist)
  • "We will wait and see about raising fees this October. Since we have not raised fees for two years, we will probably raise fees this year.” (Colorado dentist)

Raise everything but dental hygiene and recall exams

  • “We kept many fees the same as the economy is so bad at the moment. Raising recalls could have caused issues, but we had to go up on major procedures to cover our increased costs." (General dentist)
  • “We kept the basic services the same (prophys etc) but raised the other fees. We find that patients do not notice the increase unless we increase the prophy and exam fees.” (California dentist)
  • "Preventive maintenance visits held steady, 00120, 01110, BWX etc. All others up 3%.” (Pennsylvania dentist)

dental insurance purposes

  • “We are a group practice which is participating with PPO, HMO, and fee plans. Since some of our co-pays are based on a percentage of our registered fees, we had to increase our fees.” (New Jersey dentist)
  • “The Delta PPO is becoming an overbearing force." (General dentist)


Note: Survey sample included 140 respondents.

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