What does “expensive” mean?

By Celia Burns on 2nd July 2015

Reading The Times on Saturday morning I was interested to see Caitlin Moran bemoaning the cost of printer ink (£2000 a gallon, as you ask).

This prompted me to consider what I pay for some of the liquids I use daily at the practice, and the first discrepancy that leapt to mind was the cost of the fluid that we use for root canal disinfection. Sodium Hypochlorite for dental use costs around £50 a litre. That might not sound too terrible till you consider that sodium hypochlorite is available at Tesco for 15 pence a litre (it’s bleach, pure and simple).

However the prize for the most expensive liquid I can find rummaging through the surgery drawers is dental bonding agent. The one I currently use costs just under £10,000 a litre but the most expensive is £14,000 a litre, or an eye watering £63,000 a gallon. (I was so amazed by this figure that I actually wrote to The Times to point it out, and they published my letter on Wednesday).

Strangely, I resent paying £50 for a litre of the bleach whereas I happily pay £10,000 a litre for the bond.


It all comes down to value for money. The advance of dental materials in recent years has been little short of miraculous, and the companies who make these products have invested millions in their development. I don’t begrudge them making a profit until the patent runs out. Whereas bleach, is bleach, is bleach. Packaging it up with a CE mark does not make it worth 333 times as much in my book.

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About the Author

Celia Burns - Principal Dentist & Clinical Director

My first love isn’t teeth; it’s people. That’s why I love being a dentist. It’s the best feeling in the world to be able to help an anxious patient, who has possibly avoided going to the dentist for many years, build their trust in me, and I get a real thrill from helping someone achieve the confidence in their smile that they want.

Six Month Smiles BACD - British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry British Dental Association The Oral Health Foundation GDC