A new survey has uncovered the myriad challenges dental practices face in the UK as they grapple with patient financing.
The research paints a troubling picture of hurdles, headaches and high interest rates.
As a result, many patients trying to access life-changing dental treatments face a complicated journey.
The survey, by SmileSave.co.uk, polled dental practices across the UK to highlight the significant pain points.
It reveals that 82.69 per cent of practices offer financing options to their patients. While this presents a promising avenue for patients seeking more manageable ways to pay for their treatments, practice owners encountered significant obstacles in doing so.
These include restrictions without Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) authorisation, fluctuating interest rates and a need for enhanced marketing support to raise awareness of their financing services.
Among those dental practices providing financing options, 41.86 per cent revealed they were not FCA-authorised. This lack of authorisation limits their ability to offer longer-term financing options beyond the 12-month threshold, potentially restricting patient access to affordable dental care.
While 90.69 per cent of dental practices offer financing do so with 0 per cent interest, many owners grapple with high-interest rate subsidies as a result. One finance provider, for example, charges an 8.7 per cent interest rate subsidy for 0 per cent financing over 12 months, with rates increasing for longer terms.
Provider frustrations have grown in response to these high-interest rate subsidies, with 93.02 per cent of practices expressing discontent.
Additionally, 27.91 per cent reported dissatisfaction with loan rejection rates.
Dental practices offering financing options received an average of 12.62 monthly patient inquiries, highlighting the demand for these services. In contrast, practices not offering financing received fewer inquiries, with just seven per month.
The average financing amount patients request is approximately £3,798.72 for practices offering financing, slightly lower at £3,528.57 for practices without financing options.
Dental practices also voiced a need for enhanced marketing materials to boost patient awareness of financing options.
The survey results showed that 84.1 per cent prefer flyers or cards for patients during price discussions, 79.4 per cent want a practice-branded ‘finance options’ page on their websites, and 74.6 per cent desire a website widget for finance eligibility checks.
Additionally, 61.9 per cent want signage for waiting rooms and reception areas to promote financing options, and 57.1 per cent want integration into their marketing campaigns to ensure patients are well-informed about available financing.
Derek Uittenbroek, the founder of SmileSave.co.uk, expressed his concerns, “Patient financing is broken. In the current economic climate, offering patients the flexibility to pay for high-value treatment is more important than ever.
“Patient finance is meant to help dental practices, but instead, they’re often faced with increasing rejection rates and eye-watering interest-rate subsidies.
“Our survey results shed light on these challenges as the dental industry strives to provide affordable and accessible care to patients.”
He believes many dental practices offer 0 per cent financing because they feel pressured to make payments more accessible for patients.
Derek added, “But this can mean practices pay as much as £435 in fees on a £5,000 treatment. Practices are also seeing higher rejection rates with single-lender finance companies.”
Dental practices often partner with a specific lender to help patients finance the cost of treatment. However, there are drawbacks for both practices and patients.
Derek said, “Unless patients have a near-perfect credit score, they might get rejected for finance when inside the practice, which is not ideal for the team or the patient. Also, dental practices looking to provide 0 per cent financing can face the burden of providers’ excessive interest rate subsidies.”
Aakash Mavani is the clinical lead at The Happy Smile Company in Watford, Hertfordshire. He offers finance options to patients via SmileSave.co.uk.
Aakash said, “Patients love being able to pay for their treatment in monthly instalments – especially in this climate. It gives them that added peace of mind.”
Derek added, “As practices continue to navigate the complex world of financing, there is a growing need for support, fair interest rates and effective marketing strategies to ensure dental health remains accessible to all. Practices must have the opportunity to maximise their case acceptance by offering patients a panel of lenders instead of just one without any hassle.”
References available on request.