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Dental fees jump in Japan as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine causes palladium price hike

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused the price of palladium to soar and dental patients in Japan aged under 70 can expect to pay an additional several hundred yen in dental fees for each tooth restored using the metal. (Image: takayuki/Shutterstock)

TOKYO, Japan: The government has increased its set national insurance remuneration for palladium dental restorations owing to the soaring price of the commodity. Dental patients in the country, however, will still need to pay more for treatment with the silvery platinum metal. Russia produces around 40% of total global exports of palladium, and analysts expect that uncertainties relating to supply will keep prices high for the foreseeable future.

Dentists in Japan began losing money in March when the government’s fixed price for palladium dental restorations no longer covered the cost of the material. The use of the material by dentists is covered by Japan’s national health insurance programme, and the government reimburses clinicians for its use in accordance with a fixed price that is reviewed on a quarterly basis.

In March, the fixed price for 30 g of palladium was ¥88,530 (€650), and an April review by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare resulted in the price being raised to ¥94,470 (¥3,149 or €23.12 per g). A further hike had been planned for May, and Tokyo-based Kyodo News confirmed on 13 April that the price of palladium used in dental restorations will increase by an additional 8%.

The news agency said that dental patients aged under 70 should expect to pay an additional several hundred yen in dental fees for each tooth restored using the metal.

Nearly half of all palladium imports into Japan come from South Africa, and Russia accounts for just over one-third (34.5%) of Japan’s total imports of the metal. Russia mines around 40% of the total global palladium supply, and the commodity jumped in price when the country invaded its neighbour Ukraine in February.

Citing concerns related to supply, Nico Muller, CEO of the third-largest producer of platinum metals, Impala Platinum Holdings, told Bloomberg in April that palladium prices may not come down any time soon. “I believe that the fundamental market dynamics are going to provide strong price support for our metals for at least the next four or five years, potentially even longer,” Muller commented.

Palladium is the least dense platinum metal and the one with the lowest melting point. It is an important metal in the production of fuel cells and electronic and medical devices. The production of catalytic converters, which transform most of the harmful gases found in vehicle emissions into benign substances, accounts for more than half of global palladium use.

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