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Question: “It seems like there’s a wide range of fees associated with dental care. Why is there such a difference from one office to the next?”

Answer: This is a common question posed by consumers of dental services. Many people consider dental care to be a commodity when it should be considered in terms of the actual service provided.

For example, I would consider products like televisions and cars to be commodities. There are certainly many different makes, models, and options available, but you can at least compare the same make and model offered by two different stores or dealers. Some stores and dealers might provide superior customer service or financing options, but the product itself is the same.

The same can not be said of dentistry or any other healthcare service. There are huge variations in terms of technical skill, training, experience, technology, materials, philosophy, and laboratory work. There are a tremendous number of details that go into making a crown or providing any other dental service, and these details (and the results) are never going to be identical from one dentist to another.

That makes comparing crowns and the associated fees just about impossible. Fees are generally based upon the costs associated with rendering treatment and the care, skill, and judgment of the particular dentist. That having been said, it is very difficult for patients to assess the quality of care they are receiving.

There are several basic guidelines that can be considered when evaluating a dental team, however. It is important that they ask questions about your medical and dental histories and spend time listening to and recording your responses. They should thoroughly examine your entire mouth and come up with a personalized treatment plan.

Most importantly, you should feel that your dentist and team are your dental advocates and that they really listen to you and want to help you to stay healthy. Your objective should be to receive services at a good value (quality at a fair fee) than it is to receive an inexpensive service that might not stand the test of time.

Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Valparaiso and Chesterton. Additionally, he serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics and is involved with many other local, state, national, and international dental organizations. Questions for Dr. Arnold can be emailed to or sent to 1830 South 11th St., Chesterton, IN, 46304. More information on this and a variety of other dental topics can be found at