A year ago, when the Australian dental market was on the verge of collapse, dental flippers were selling off their dental insurance policies, taking advantage of a government subsidy to help them cover the costs of their treatment.
Now, the dental flipper is back, and the industry is booming.
A major industry lobby group has said the dental market is poised to double in size and number of businesses in just four years.
A key factor is a shift in attitudes towards dental care, which is now viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity.
The dental flicker was the first big wave of the financial crisis, when some insurance companies and insurers became unresponsive to consumers and were unable to absorb the cost of their patients’ dental work.
“The whole industry, I think, was in a bit of a state of shock,” says Mike Kewell, president of the Australian Association of Dental Examiners.
“You’d see people on the street with dentures and not enough money to pay for them, so they went and got a dental flapper.”
“I think it was a little bit of desperation, a bit like the mortgage market of the 1980s.”
Mr Kewel says it’s no surprise that dental flickers are now booming, given the shift in the consumer culture around the dental industry.
“There are definitely changes taking place in the Australian population, which makes a lot of dentists feel a little less comfortable in the industry,” he says.
“We’re seeing more people buying insurance and insurance companies are looking at the dental markets.”
The dental market has been a focus of debate in recent months, with a number of bills being proposed to replace the existing dental insurance.
But dental fliers and flippers disagree on a lot more than that.
What is dental calculus?
Dental calculus is a complex system of calculus that describes the relationship between the amount of money that an insurance company is offering and the likelihood of being able to pay it.
For example, if a company offers to cover $300 for a full day’s work, it can be written off as having a $30,000 limit.
This could mean that a dentist would have to be paid $10,000 to cover that same work.
But if the company offers a $10-a-day dental plan, it will be written-off as having only a $500 limit.
If the insurer is offering $1,000 dental care for $300, it would only be covered for $400.
This would mean that if the dentist could not pay $300 per day, the insurance company would not be able to cover the work.
So a dental plan with a $1 million limit would only cover $200 a day, while a dental fee of $1 per $100 would cover $150.
How much is dental insurance?
A dental insurance company can set a maximum amount for dental coverage, which means a dentist could be able cover a minimum amount of work.
That’s usually around $10 per day for a $300-a‑day plan.
The maximum the insurer can offer varies from plan to plan, but usually covers the dentist’s first week’s work.
However, many dental flarers do not like this minimum, as they are not reimbursed for any dental work that is not performed.
They say they are just being paid for the first week, and it is unfair that they are being penalised for work they do not perform.
Some dental flayers say they do pay the full amount of the dental fee and the full dental work if they are paid by insurance.
This does not always happen, however.
The Australian Dental Federation, the industry’s trade body, says many insurers are reluctant to take on the full cost of dental care from a dental provider, and are therefore reluctant to offer dental coverage at all.
“When you see a plan that is $10 a day for dental work, the insurer might not even take it out, it’s just to get the dental fees paid,” Mr Kwell says.
This might mean the dental provider is not reimbursing for the full costs of dental work done, but instead just covering the cost that is paid by the insurer.
This is because insurers are often reluctant to cover dental work which does not require any dental treatment, such as a root canal, dentistry, or a tooth extraction.
“They are very concerned about the dental costs that they’re paying,” he adds.
What are dental flickr?
A flickr user is a person who owns a dental insurance policy and shares the information of their dental work online.
There are about 100 million flickr users in Australia, with many of them using the flickr website to share their dental history and treatments.
“People will look at that and say, ‘That’s the one that’s working well, and that’s the person who can afford it’,” Mr Kawell says, explaining why dental flicking is such a big part of the health insurance industry.