The all-items price index over 12 months, ending November 2021, was recently released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. At 6.8%, this was the largest 12-month increase since June 1982. Consumers have seen a rise in gas, housing, food, and medical prices. Worried consumers and critics of the Biden administration have not been appeased by the President’s statement that the inflation rate does not reflect the current reality.

As the federal government and its financial bodies take steps to curb inflation, consumer spending appears to be dropping as people fear an increase in interest rates. However, some economists were more positive than others, pointing to the rise in spending for October, a low unemployment rate, and increasing wages.

Medical Spending

Rising inflation is, unfortunately, also affecting the medical debt carried by Americans. The most recent data shows that the number has grown from 46% in 2020 to 50% in 2021. According to this survey, diagnostic tests make up the majority of medical bills for the respondents, and 6% of people struggle to pay off the bills for their dental care. One percent of the people in the study owe $150,000 or more, while 34%, the majority, owe between $1,000 to $5,000.

Many people have deferred medical treatments over the last 18 months while others have neglected their health due to their health behaviors (smoking, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, substance abuse, etc.) and employers have spent less than expected on healthcare.

One thing that was highlighted even more over the last 18 months was the health inequalities among the population. With a national health expenditure data of $4.1 trillion in 2020, national health spending is projected to reach $6.2 trillion by 2028, which is an annual increase of 5.4%.

Digital Health and Consumers

Increasingly, patients are finding that they are becoming more digitally connected with their healthcare providers, finding that these providers can offer them better care and an improved customer experience. More and more consumers are looking for ways to provide themselves with healthcare at lower costs.

They have done this by embracing care outside of the doctor’s office, using on-demand telehealth, retail clinics, and concierge medicine services. This means that visiting the emergency department of the hospital is starting to become the last resort for a large number of people.

Cost of Medical and Dental Treatments

Healthcare in the United States is expensive, and the premiums for the health insurance of an average family continue to increase. The bottom line is that doctors get paid more, diagnostic tests are more expensive, and so are medications when compared to other countries. Administering these services is also expensive.

Comparing the common costs of healthcare with other countries is best reflected through the prices of one of the most common, but important diagnostic tools, the MRI. In the US, the average cost of an MRI is $1,430, whereas it only costs $190 in the Netherlands and $750 in New Zealand.

The prices of other procedures in the US are also high, and a person can expect to pay between $70,000 and $120,000 for a coronary bypass, up to $35,000 for an appendectomy, and more than $20,000 for a gallbladder removal.

Dental treatments are not excluded from the list of expensive treatments. Some of the most expensive include oral surgery, dental implants, veneers, and the various types of dental braces.

Orthodontic therapy is often not considered a necessity, but orthodontists agree that it can boost oral health and have positive effects on the psychological wellbeing of patients. Unfortunately, not all insurances cover orthodontic treatments. For decades now, people have considered braces a worthwhile investment for their children. However, many adults and teenagers shy away from getting braces because of the discomfort of wearing them and the fact that they are too conspicuous.

Invisalign, the clear aligners that hit the market back in 1997, became a solution for those wanting a more discreet teeth straightening treatment. Unfortunately, Invisalign is quite expensive and generally costs between $3,000 and $8,000. The cost depends on how many aligners are required to complete the treatments and the number of visits needed to the orthodontist. Each case is unique since Invisalign is a customized tooth straightening treatment plan.

Affordable Dentistry Solutions

Several factors contribute to the final cost of Invisalign braces. These include the severity of the misalignments, the expertise of the dental professional, the retainers required for the aftercare, any changes needed to refine the treatment, and the orthodontist’s location.

There are differences in Invisalign cost from one state to the other as outlined by Smile Prep. For several years now, Smile Prep has provided consumers with guides and reviews to help them make the right choice when looking for teeth straightening treatments. They report that Invisalign price differences depend on if the dental professional is in a rural, suburban, or urban area. For instance, suburban New York is a far more expensive area for teeth straightening, as is the whole of Hawaii.

Fortunately, over the last few years, teeth straightening treatments have become more affordable with the arrival of clear aligner competitors to Invisalign. These companies are offering effective at-home teeth straightening solutions, based on the concept of teledentistry. This makes the teeth straightening treatments cheaper, more convenient, and quicker.

When compared to Invisalign, these at-home aligner options cost between $1,100 - $2,300. Some of the most popular companies are SmileDirectClub, AlignCo, Candid, and Byte. The price difference has nothing to do with the quality of the materials, but more to do with the fact that the consumer receives a less personalized treatment. Of course, for those with severe misalignment, these at-home treatments are not suitable.

Final Take

Competition has proven great for dentistry solutions because more people have access to teeth straightening treatments. Having both options available allows the consumer to choose if they want the peace of mind of having a supervised treatment, or don’t mind sending an impression or scan to one of the at-home clear aligner companies before receiving the full set of clear aligners for their at-home treatment.

Depending on the condition of their teeth, more patients in the US now have a choice in teeth straightening treatments, and in this way, they can counterbalance inflation.