Why does the cost of implant vary so much. Part 2 – Cost and Value.

When deciding on how much you want to spend on something, it’s important to understand the difference between cost and value.

The cost of something is the price that you pay, say £1000 for a computer. But the value of the item is the combination of many things- the pleasure you get from the experience of buying and unboxing the computer it, of using it for the first and the 1000th time, or sharing it with a friend and the ongoing pleasure and productivity you get from it.

I am typing this on an apple mac, it’s not the cheapest computer, but the pleasure I get from using a well thought out operating system, nice looking apps with icons that animate in satisfying way as you open and close them all the way to the picture icons of the album covers on the playlist that I am playing now. I am sure I could do all of the things that I need to, like type a document and listen to music on a computer running a different operating system, but this one does it in a way that I like and enjoy.

There are differences in how this computer is built, and you can tell that care goes into the whole process from selecting the best components from different manufacturer, designing the shape of the keys, putting little lights underneath the keyboard to make it easier to type in low light, to the extent that when I finish with this one for the inevitable upgrade, I would have used it most days for around 3-4 years, and then it will have been built well enough so that I can pass this on to one of my children , who will again use it for another few years.

It works very well, looks better AND lasts longer than a cheaper machine.

That’s the value of it to me. The long-term cost is lower with a higher upfront investment.

How does this apply to your teeth?

It’s very hard for you to understand the different values (not cost) from different dentists for dental implants.

When you’re looking online the websites of many dentists and dental practices will look the same to you. They are likely to have very similar pictures taken from the internet to show treatments.

When you look at the dentists, the qualifications will look similar- strings of letters with things like MSc (insert university name here) or like mine DipImpDent RCS (Eng) Adv. Cert.

You are likely to have no idea what those letters mean. You may not have heard of many of the institutions or be able to decipher what the letters mean.

When you look at the pictures on the website, a set of implant teeth will look very similar to you as a patient

When you look at the X-rays, the metal “rods” implants will look the same to you on an X-ray. You won’t know if on the X-ray it’s been put in well or badly.

When you read about the procedure, you may not know what an abutment is and why you need one (it is a small part used to connect the implant underneath the gum to the tooth which you can see).

When you look at the before and after photos, you don’t know how those relate to your problem.

It is difficult to find out and to trust that you’re getting value when comparing so many things that seem very similar to you, and so the easier thing at this stage is to give up and just judge on cost and just go for whichever is cheapest.

Most people end up deciding that as long as they are not paying “too little” or “too much” then that will be ok.

Cost is easy to measure. Value is not.

Many years ago, we had a leak around the chimney at home and when this happened, I called a roofer in to fix it.

I could not see the source of the problem, but I could see the water damage in the house that was the result of the leak.

He came along with a ladder, spent half a day up on the roof, explained what he had done, I paid him and the problem went away. He did say that, although he had fixed it, we may need a new roof in the future, as he was not able to fix it to the standard that he would like. I did not go up on to roof with him as it was a really long ladder and I thought, why risk it? It’s his remit and he knows.

The next time I had to think about the roof, was when we had a loft extension at home a few years ago and the firm ( who I would highly recommend-Marvin from Sky High builders- https://www.sky-high-builders.co.uk/) came to look. They pointed out an area where the roof had been repaired with duct tape. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duct_tape) This was the scene of the previous repair and I will never forget how angry and stupid I felt.

How had the roofer before turned up, taken my money and repaired my roof with tape (at least it was waterproof tape!) while smiling at me and shaking my hand?

Did he have no morals? No pride in his work? Why would you knowingly do that to another person?

The truth is he knew he would be long gone before I ever discovered what he had done and there was no way of me going on to the roof to check the work he had done before paying him. I trusted him and he choose to fix my roof in the way that made him the most money.

I would like to point out that this time I went onto the roof! I can still look out at the chimney from the loft and admire the work!

You could argue that it worked for a while, but if he had said- you have 2 options, duct tape or lead flashing, one will be cheap and quick, the other will be more expensive and long lasting, but the roof around it will need replacement before my repair, then he would be being honest with me.

This is what’s difficult for you as a patient. A bit like I don’t have an extra-long ladder to see the roof, you don’t have a CT scanner to check your bone volume. You can’t check the research on the implant going into your mouth, you can’t check the manufacturing facility used to make the abutment, or the laboratory that makes the final tooth or teeth.

The materials, people and process are all very opaque.

You rely on trust and your instinct to decide if I am going to use cheap duct tape or expensive lead flashing in the repair.

You have to decide if I am going to use a cheap implant without any market research, or one that has been in use for 30 years with numerous long-term scientific studies to back up it’s long term performance.

You have to decide if I am going to use cheaper cast metal and acrylic teeth or milled titanium and zirconia from reputable manufacturers for your final restoration.

You have to decide if you think I will use a “value” laboratory (this is how many overseas laboratories market themselves to the UK market) or a high-end UK laboratory with qualified technicians for your final prosthesis.

I don’t think you can decide this from just a website and a price, but what I can say is that our aim is to deliver long term value on your teeth.

We want to give you the equivalent of the computer that lasts, and is passed on from father to child, but that comes at a price. The price, and the value, comes in the many small hidden choices that we can make all along the way during your treatment that all accumulate into the final set of teeth that you can see and feel.

It’s also difficult because you won’t have had a full set of teeth before and so you have nothing to judge it against.

Also, like the roof, some of the problems won’t show up straight away.

“Teeth for life, not teeth for a day“



RIP Deborah. Miss your wit and charm.