SEATTLE—A lot of us are coming up with some inventive ways to save money these days, but here's a new idea that really has some teeth to it. Why not use a student dentist for basic cleaning, or even major work like a root canal?
It's a popular choice in a tough economy. The University of Washington School of Dentistry now has a wait list that is two to three months long for some procedures. It's still a tough choice, though: while some of us might consider saving a few bucks on a haircut from a student barber, making the decision to visit a student dentists a real mouthful.
A trip to the dentist isn't always fun, and work like putting some gold crowns on Doug Richards' teeth isn't cheap either. So why is he smiling? Richards says, "I'm extremely happy with the work, and the price." Doug's paying about 60% of what a patient at a private clinic would pay, because UW dental students are doing the work.
It all makes sense to Dr. Daniel Chan, the Associate Dean of Clinical Services for UW's School of Dentistry. He's proud to offer care at a lower price to 64,000 patients a year, and not just because of the direct service to the public. "We also have to fulfill the mission of educating the next generation of dentists here," says Chan. "So we have to have patients coming in, and the lower fee entices patients to come here."
And make no mistake: that fee is a big reason the 260 chairs at this clinic stay filled. As patient Lisa Kaufman puts it, "I don't have dental insurance. So it's all my dollars. So yeah, that matters." But quality also matters. So UW faculty, some of the region's top dentists, are constantly monitoring student work. Fourth year student Jason Bressler says he'd put up the work in this clinic against any outside practice. He says, "The care you're getting here is as good, if not even more, because you're getting a student and one or two faculty overlooking everything. And everything's got to be ideal before they send it out to a lab, before they get sent home, everything."
The drawbacks are that your appointment takes longer with more oversight, and some cases aren't accepted because they lack educational value. But if you're tight on money and willing to let students take care of your teeth, open up.
If you'd like to learn more about the University of Washington School of Dentistry, and its options for patient care, follow this link. Grad school and faculty members work at the clinic too, for slightly different prices. Most insurance plans are accepted.