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Do you need dental insurance?

It makes sense to get your dental treatment subsidised for free through the NHS. But if you're unable or unwilling to use an NHS dentist, or you need to have a lot of work done on your teeth, dental insurance might be a good idea. Find out about the main types of dental cover, how it works, when it might be suitable and the costs.

What does dental insurance do?

Dental treatment is relatively cheap – or, in some cases, free – through the NHS. It offers treatments to cover all your dental needs.

But there is the option to pay for your dental care instead. There are two ways of doing this:

  • Dental insurance policies – where you pay your dentist for the treatment you receive and then claim the cost back from the insurer.
  • Dental payment or ‘capitation’ plans – where you spread the cost of treatment over a set period of time, typically paying a regular monthly amount.                     

We go into more detail on these two options below.

When would I need dental cover?

If your teeth are healthy and you only really visit the dentist for an annual check-up, you probably don’t need to pay for dental insurance.

However, you might still want to – perhaps because the option of emergency care gives you peace of mind.

But if your dental health isn’t great and you need regular treatment, insurance could be a cost-effective way to pay for it.

Similarly, if you can’t find an NHS dentist, or you simply want to use a private dentist, it makes good financial sense to get dental cover.

Be aware that while NHS treatment is capped and typically much cheaper than going private, you usually still have to pay for it.

You might also have to wait longer than you would for private treatment.

NHS costs vary across the UK:

Finding an NHS dentist:

What you need to know about dental insurance

  • Dental insurance policies cover routine check-ups, as well as the costs of all dental work. This includes dental accidents and emergencies.
  • You can often have the work done at either an NHS practice or a private clinic.
  • If you use an NHS dentist, you’re more likely to get back 100% of the cost of your treatment.
  • If you can’t see an NHS dentist, you’ll only be paid back a percentage of your treatment costs.
  • You pay the dentist first, then claim back your money. You can normally only start to claim between one and three months after you buy the insurance.
  • There are usually annual limits on how much you can claim for certain treatments.
  • If you haven’t been to the dentist in the past 12 months, your policy might not pay for treatment identified at your first check-up.
  • Cosmetic dental work, such as teeth whitening, isn’t generally covered.
  • Most policies have an age range that starts from age 18 – although some start at age six.
  • Some policies offer a no-claims discount. So the cost of your premium will increase if you make a claim for anything other than a standard check-up.

How much does dental insurance cost?

Dental insurance costs can range from £70 to £300 a year, with the amount varying between different insurers and policies.

Many offer different levels of cover – from basic routine care up to extensive treatment plans. So you can choose how much you want to spend and the amount of cover you want.

For example, a cheaper policy might pay out 50% of treatment you receive and/or have a lower benefit limit per condition per year. For example, up to £500 for root canal work in one year.

Even if you have cover, you’ll still have to pay for some treatment and there’s a limit on how much you can claim back for each treatment plan. For example, you might be paid a percentage – from 50 to 70% – of the fee charged by your dentist for remedial dental treatment. Although some policies refund 100% of the fee for NHS treatment.

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What you need to know about dental payment plans

These plans spread the cost of your dental care over a year, they’re sometimes known as ‘capitation plans’.

You can sign up for treatment at different levels:

  • Level one covers routine care, such as check-ups, scale and polish, X-rays and fillings.
  • Level two includes restorative treatment as well, such as crowns and root canal fillings.

There are flexible plans designed especially for children, and plans that include cover for dental injuries and dental emergencies on a worldwide basis.

The monthly average costs the same as the more expensive dental insurance policies. If your teeth are in good condition, you’re probably better off on the NHS.

With a dental plan, you’re tied to a particular dentist. A referral to a specialist, such as an orthodontist, won’t be covered.

If you change dentists – when you move to a new area, for example – you might have to start the process again. This means the amount you pay might have to go up.

How much does a dental payment plan cost?

The cost depends on the plan you choose and your oral health.

The monthly fee is set by your dentist, based on an examination of your dental needs.

If you choose a comprehensive plan, your dentist will examine you. Depending on how much time, care and treatment you’ll need over the year – they’ll put you in a band with a set fee.

You could move up or down between fee bands if your oral health improves or deteriorates. You might also have to pay a joining fee.

As you’re paying the dentist directly, be aware that prices might vary widely between practices.

How to get dental insurance

Companies often offer dental plans as part of their employee benefit packages, such as through their private medical insurance.

Some employers set up the policy for you and pay all the premiums as part of their package, offering varying levels of cover.

Others offer discounts to employees who use a dentist covered by their plan.

If you don’t have access to private medical insurance through an employer, you can buy it from:

  • an insurer
  • broker
  • financial adviser
  • bank
  • building society
  • retailer, such as a supermarket.

You can also shop around for cover using comparison websites – where it’s often referred to as health insurance.

To find out more:

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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
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