Budgeting for Retirement: Dental Costs for Hygiene, X-Rays, and Fillings

Another perq we won’t have in retirement is a corporate dental plan. Given the way they savaged our plan to almost death during the latest round of work budget cuts, it won’t make that much difference. The big change will be there won’t be any pay cheques coming in to fill the cavity in the bank account after the appointment. Here’s what I’m considering for our retirement budget for our basic dental costs for hygiene appointments, X-rays and fillings.

What Does It Cost Us Now for Basic Dental Care?

If anyone ever told you basic dentistry was cheap, they didn’t live in southern Ontario. My family has what most dentists would consider “average” teeth: No weaknesses; no caps; no implants; no dentures; no grinding; no serious alignment issues. We brush and floss daily. (Yes, I do floss daily (or more) now. Yes, I hate it. But if you want your kids to do it you have to lead by example.)

Yet here are our costs so far this year, not including the kids:

  • Hygiene appointments: $165 x 2
  • Recall dentist exam: $31
  • Exam of special area: $60
  • Composite Filling: $225 (Keeping my wisdom teeth was an expensive choice, apparently.)
  • 4 radiographs (bitewing X-rays): $45
  • Panoramic radiograph: $108
  • Polishing: $18 (No, they didn’t look any different afterwards.)

What Did Basic Dental Care Cost Us in 2009?

Does anyone else remember when dental offices were gloomy small rooms above retail stores that had a shabby carpet in the waiting room and worn linoleum in the dentist’s office? I even remember when the dentist did the hygiene work not a lower-paid assistant. Of course the best thing about visiting the dentist in those days was he also stocked the waiting room with a huge pile of comic books. Now I’m stuck watching my BNS stock plummeting on the omnipresent TV: hardly as amusing.

Anyway, I dug through some old records to find out what we were paying for our basic dental visits in 2009.

  • Hygiene appointments, each: $149.72
  • Filling on one surface: $125.94
  • Filling on two surfaces: $185.33
  • Recall exam: $54.38
  • Full radiographs: $112.10

What Should We Budget for Basic Dental Care in Retirement?

Ok, now the guessing game begins.

How many hygiene appointments will we be able to afford when we retire? How many should we have? We’ll have to plan on somewhere between those two extremes of 0 and 6.

How about

  • 1.333 hygiene appointments per year? (Assuming one visit every 9 months.)
  • 1 recall exam per year
  • 1 polishing per year (so skip it at some of the hygiene appointments)
  • 4 radiographs per year
  • 0.5 cavities per year (we can hope, right? We do have years now with no cavities but I’m assuming things get worse.)

Now we have to double it for the two of us.

  • 2.666 hygiene appointments @ $165 = $439.89
  • 2 recall exams @ $31 = $62
  • 2 polishings @ $18 = $36
  • 8 X-rays @ $45/4 = $90
  • 1 cavity @ $225 = $225

That comes to a nasty total of $852.89.

But that’s in 2014 dollars.

It’s hard to estimate how fast that will go up because I’m not sure what the inflation rate is for dental work.

What Rate of Inflation Should I Use for Dental Expenses?

Dental costs are quite often set by what the insurance companies will accept which is based on a table of charges. It’s not very predictable. Unfortunately, I don’t have many directly comparable bills from 2009 and 2014.

The only bill that I have that claims to be identical is the cost for hygiene visits. For the same amount of time and the same procedure, the cost was $149.72 in 2009 and $165 in 2014. That’s an increase of $15.28 over 5 years. That’s a little less than 2.5% per year.

So for pension planning, I might want to increase my $852.89 annual cost by 2.5% a year for each year.

Remember this doesn’t include any money for

  • Root canals
  • Extractions
  • Caps
  • Implants
  • Gum transplants, etc.

So we’d better hope our teeth stay fairly healthy.

What Can I Conclude About Dental Budgeting?

  • I’d better hope that they come out with an alternate to the internet that’s much cheaper than we have right now. Because as it stands now I’ll have to give up the internet and a bit of something else to pay for our dental costs.
  • I may want to start checking whether any dentists near here have lower fees or have a lower fee for patients without a dental plan.

Related Reading
Other articles in the Budgeting for Retirement Series:

Join In
Have you considered how you will pay for dentistry when you’re retired? Are you already struggling to pay for it even though you’re still working? Please share your views with a comment.

4 thoughts on “Budgeting for Retirement: Dental Costs for Hygiene, X-Rays, and Fillings

  1. Nice post. You have caused me to start evaluating what we will need/require. Your costs are currently lower than what my family is trending. I have kid that will need braces, so I have already set-up a fund to cover future costs… $3K in it so far :). I never really thought about dentistry for my wife and I beyond her working. Some work benefits sure add value – dentistry being one of them! Thanks for the jolt to get me thinking about it. – Cheers.

    • Thanks for the comment! Braces are a big one. Unfortunately, we’ve had to save for those too. Our work dental plan covers a “lifetime” max of $1500 for orthodontics. I don’t see that being much help.

      I think medical costs will be one of the hardest things to plan for in retirement. A few of our elder relatives have had to deal with cancer and the side costs of that (meal replacement drinks; bandages; special soaps; even cotton gloves) was surprising. Most of the cost of prescriptions (in Ontario) is covered for seniors, but many illnesses require non-prescription drugs to manage as well (immodium, for example, is very expensive to use daily but for a relative with an ileostomy it was what the Dr recommended to help control things.)

      I guess we’ll just keep saving and hope for the best!

      • The interesting part of our calculations is that we are both hoping to be retired by 50, which makes for a 15 year gap to be classed as seniors… We are also dealing with cancer and associated costs as my father-in-law is in advanced stages. A long time ago I recall a stat – 80% of ones medical costs are incurred in the last few months of life. So with that said I hope to enjoy life as ling as I can, and then knock off quickly if you will. – Cheers.

        • I’m very sorry to hear about your father-in-law. I’m sure you are already well aware, then, of some of the uncovered costs of the health care system. I hope that he’s not in pain and that he’s able to find some of the precious moments of peace and joy in life.

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