Take the pain out of dental bills

Published by Emma Lunn on 07 May 2010.
Last updated on 25 August 2011

Going to the dentist can be painful financially as well as physically. If you don’t have access to an NHS dentist, routine treatments can easily run into hundreds of pounds.

According to research by Simply Health 39% of Britons have had to pay for dental bills over £50 using a credit card, and 2% have been forced to take out a loan.

On top of this, 43% of people have put off visiting the dentist because of the cost. For over a third of these people, not visiting the dentist has brought about devastating effects – from long-term tooth decay, to loss of a tooth or needing to undergo extreme dental procedures.

However, there are ways you can plan ahead to cushion the blow of dental costs.

Cash plans

Health cash plans are the cheapest way to get help with dental costs and they also contribute towards other medical care such as opticians’ appointments, osteopathy and physiotherapy.

The plans are different to private medical insurance in that they are designed to help with everyday medical costs rather than pay for treatment for serious conditions.

With cash plans you arrange and pay for the treatment yourself then claim a proportion of the costs back from the provider. The amount you are allowed to claim back depends on which of a provider's policies you choose. The more expensive a policy, the more you can reclaim each year.

How much your plan costs depends on your age when you join, whether you join as a single person, or as part of a couple or family, and finally, on the level of cover you require. Compared to private medical insurance, the plans are pretty cheap - Simply Health has plans starting at £2.25 a week, Westfield’s plans start at £5.35 per month and plans with BHSF  start at £6.80 a month. Payment levels will  vary from plan to plan so check the details to find the most appropriate package for you.

Dental cover

If it’s just dental bills you’re worried about you can take out dental insurance. With dental insurance you can claim for treatments whether you choose to go privately or via the NHS. How much cover you get for routine treatments, emergencies and injuries varies from policy to policy.

Tesco offers dental insurance from £19.95 a month which covers private dental treatment. It will reimburse 100% of routine treatments such as check-ups, and 50% of certain unplanned treatments. However, there are plenty of exclusions – the policy doesn’t cover existing problems you had when you signed up for the policy, or any treatments identified during the policy’s “qualifying period”, this is one month for core cover or three months for premium cover.

Alternatively, “capitation schemes” involve fixed monthly payments based on the amount of treatment your dentist thinks you will need. Once you have registered, you are given an initial dental check. The dentist then assesses how much you should pay each month, depending on how much treatment you are likely to need in the future and the level of cover you want.

The contract is fixed between you and your dentist and administered by a dental payment plan specialist. One of the best known is Denplan, which also provides white label products for other insurance companies.

Private medical insurance

Many private medical insurance (PMI) policies include cover for dental treatments, although policies differ on what they cover – some only cover emergencies for example, and most will not cover cosmetic treatment. PMI tends to be expensive but is a popular employee benefit so check if your company offers it.


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