SEOUL, Jul. 29 (Korea Bizwire) — Shocking figures from a new report have warned of a wide discrepancy in prices for dental procedures in South Korea, as an increasing number of patients are being reported to have been hit with unnecessarily expensive bills, up to five times higher in some cases, for the exact same type of treatment.
The report submitted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in 2014 to lawmaker Kim Jae-won, now a member of the Liberty Party, showed prices for dental implant procedures vary between 850,000 won and nearly 4 million won.
Kim, an office worker in his 30s who recently suffered a dental infection, was quoted drastically different estimated prices for the same nerve treatment at two dental clinics, with estimate coming in at 600,000 and the other at 800,000 won.
“I was reminded of the advice from other people that you have to at least visit three dentists to compare prices. The price difference is too significant despite using the same filling materials,” Kim complained.
An increasing number of individuals like Kim are falling victim to excessive and expensive dental treatment, with many dentists reportedly talking patients into paying for medical expenses upfront in cash so as to avoid paying taxes.
One of the main reasons why dental bills vary significantly in South Korea is that many of the procedures performed in dentistry are currently not covered by the national health insurance plan, resulting in arbitrary pricing at dental clinics.
Figures from the Korea Consumer Agency also suggest the number of complaints related to dental implant procedures rose sharply between 2012 and last year, from 1,413 to 1,799 cases, becoming the second most common subject of complaint among those over 60, following mobile phones.
Against this backdrop, the Korea Dentist Association (KDA) launched a campaign in 2015 to help patients find a reasonably priced local dentist.
Over 1,200 dental clinics are listed on the association’s official website, all of which meet a number of requirements including ‘performing necessary procedures only’ and ‘not allowing dental technicians to replace some of the responsibilities of a dentist’.
Along with the online information service, the association runs an anonymous complaint center to which patients can report illegal and unethical medical practices.
Choi Cheol-ho, an advertising executive at the KDA, gives a heads up on some of the common red flags to be avoided.
“Discount deals and events that sound too good to be true should be avoided, and caution must be exercised when using dental clinics where medical staff are replaced regularly,” Choi emphasized.
“As dental clinics that resort to extreme promotional tactics have often been found to either push for excessive medical treatment, or soon resort to temporary or permanent closure, it is highly recommend to find a trustworthy clinic you can regularly visit in the long term.”
Earlier this month, a dental clinic in Gangnam District in Seoul suddenly closed after convincing patients to pay medical fees upfront, to the tune of over 13 million won.
Hyunsu Yim (email@example.com)