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Dentist offices institute PPE fees to combat re-opening costs

The high cost and short supply of PPE are several factors potentially contributing to new dentist surcharges.

The next time you go to the dentist, you could be paying more up front in fees for personal protective equipment (PPE).

Several KING 5 viewers said they been charged recently with fees ranging from a one-time $10 fee to $150 for a COVID-19 fee for dental surgery. Some viewers said fees were for each visit, which adds up for families or multiple procedures.

Frances Bailey called a surcharge “uncalled for” as many dentists have already been using PPE like gloves and masks.

RELATED: Some Puget Sound dental workers want more safety measures before reopening

The American Dental Association shared guidance for dentists on creating standards when it comes to documentation, but it did not give guidance on what the fees should be. The Washington State Dental Association (WSDA) says anti-trust laws keep groups like it from setting fees for groups of health care providers.

New state guidance for re-opening dentist offices and the increased cost of PPE could contribute to the fees. State guidelines require adequate PPE for health care facilities to resume operations, and if offices don’t have enough, they can’t open. With PPE in short supply, costs have skyrocketed.

Dentist offices may also have to buy additional equipment like air purifiers and sterilization equipment.

RELATED: All Washington health care services can resume with safety plan in place

The WSDA is hopeful these fees will be covered by insurance and will also come down when PPE costs come down.

“As time goes by, we think that the supply chains will recover and prices will come down. But this is just the reality that we're living in right now,” said Bracken Killpack, executive director of the Washington State Dental Association.

The WSDA says more carriers, including UnitedHealthcare and Principal, are also covering the increases.

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