Don't let dental bills give you a toothache
As the cost of NHS treatment rises, insurance cover and dental plans could be the way to protect your oral health. Chiara Cavaglieri reports
Sunday 08 May 2011
A trip to the dentist is enough to get anyone sweating, but this anxiety can be about much more than facing the dreaded drill.
Rising costs on the NHS are forcing people to dig deep for treatment, while others are forced to go private with NHS dentists reluctant to take on new patients. The latest Simplyhealth annual dental survey also shows that 40 per cent of working adults skip routine check-ups because they can't afford the bill.
It seems that getting a toothache in England is more of a concern than it is in Wales, where charges have been frozen at 2006 levels, or in Scotland, where dental patients pay only 80 per cent of NHS treatment fees. As of last month, English patients have to cough up an extra 50p for a check-up, now £17, and will pay £47, an increase of £1.40, for fillings and root canals, known as band-two treatments. Band three treatments such as dentures and bridges have gone up by £6 to £204.
"With the rising cost of living and with NHS dental charges in England on the increase, it's important that people be financially prepared for the costs associated with looking after their oral health," says James Glover, a Simplyhealth spokesman.
The good news is that there are several ways you can insure against these costs.
If your teeth are generally in good condition, capitation plans from the likes of Denplan, DPAS or Practice Plan are one option and can be bought directly from certain dentists. With these you pay a monthly fee, determined by your existing oral health, in order to spread the cost of treatment over the year. If your teeth and gums are healthy, you can expect to pay about £15 per month, but if your oral hygiene is poor, your monthly premiums could triple.
Denplan is by far the biggest provider of capitation plans and offers a basic essentials policy for routine work, which includes check-ups, X-rays, scaling and polishing. Denplan Care offers additional cover for fillings and restorative care such as gum treatment, crowns, bridges, dentures and root fillings. Neither policy covers referral fees, laboratory fees, prescriptions, orthodontics, implants or cosmetic treatment.
"Capitation plans will cover things such as crown and bridgework, so long as they are clinically necessary, but only for the cost of the dentist's time, so you will have to pay the laboratory bill," says Dr Nigel Carter, the chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation.
If a capitation plan proves too expensive for your particular set of gnashers, it may be cheaper to opt for a stand-alone insurance policy. You pay a monthly premium but there is usually no need for an oral assessment and you settle any bills after treatment.
Dental insurance plans don't cover cosmetic dentistry so you can forget about claiming for a new Hollywood smile, but you can claim for general treatment, injuries and emergency treatment. Providers include Boots, Dencover, Tesco and Western Provident Association (WPA). Monthly premiums vary widely and may depend on your age, as well as whether you want cover for NHS and/or private work. With most of these policies, you will have to stump up some cash yourself as many set maximum annual payouts and cover only a fixed percentage of the treatment cost.
For example, a 30-year old would pay £13.50 for WPA's Level 2 dental cover for both NHS and private treatment. However, this covers only 75 per cent of costs for emergency treatment up to £1,000, 75 per cent of costs for general treatment up to £250, £20,000 for dental injuries and £10,000 for oral cancer.
Cosmetic dentistry and pre-existing conditions are not included and you are unlikely to get a payout for accidents sustained during a hazardous sport. Crucially, you will typically need to be signed up for between three and six months before they will pay out so you won't be covered straight away.
Another way to protect yourself with insurance is with a health cash plan which will contribute towards most of your medical costs by paying out a cash sum. "Most health cash plans will include a cash benefit for dental treatment. Some pay as much as £1,000 per year but most are in the region of £175 per person," says Ben Heffer, an insight analyst for protection at Defaqto.
Although most cash plans are designed to cover various medical expenses, whether it's a trip to the optician or the chiropodist, Simplyhealth does offer a dental-only cash plan. The basic Simply Dental Plan costs £7.50 a month, offering 100 per cent cash back up to £25 for check-ups, 75 per cent cash back up to £30 for scale and polish and 50 per cent cash back up to £200 for dental treatment. For extra peace of mind, the plan also offers full cash back up to £500 for emergency treatment and up to £5,000 for treatment following an accident and a one-off £5,000 payment for primary mouth cancer. If you can stretch to £22.50 per month, the Level 4 plan will top up cover to £100 for check-ups, £120 for scale and polish and £800 for dental treatment.
Once again, watch out for exclusions and note the limits on the value of claims as well as the number of claims per year. Some plans allow you to claim the full amount but many apply a percentage, so although they do help to lighten the burden, they don't necessarily pay it all. Always read the small print carefully; with the Simply Dental Plan, for example, under dental accident you are not covered for treatment as a result of injury caused by eating, chewing or drinking. Similarly, if you have an accident playing sport without wearing the appropriate mouth guard, your claim is invalidated.
If you decide to forgo insurance altogether and pay as you go instead by covering any dental costs as and when you need to, be sure to compare prices.
You may not be used to shopping around for healthcare, but fees for everything from check-ups to scale-and-polish treatments will vary from one private dentist to another, so visit a few surgeries for quotes.
Case Study: Fiona Pratley
For Fiona Pratley, a barrister with Hampshire County Council, paying £500 for dental treatment led her to take out cover with Simplyhealth in October 2008 to cover her husband, Stephen, and two young daughters, Anna and Ameilia.
"I found the NHS increasingly costly, even just for maintenance. And as you had to pay for treatment as you went along, there was no way of planning or budgeting for unexpected expense," she says.
The Pratleys now pay £31.95 per month for their Simply Dental Plan which covers the whole family for dental maintenance, including two check-ups a year, hygienist and X-rays and up to 75 per cent of the costs of dental treatment including crowns, bridges, white fillings and lab fees. The monthly fee hasn't taken long to pay for itself with Fiona having two silver fillings replaced; two root canal treatments, a crown replaced and a new crown, all of which would have otherwise cost well in excess of £1,000.
"It was my 40th birthday last year just after my course of treatment ended. My husband flew me to Guernsey for a short holiday and we also enjoyed a lovely family holiday in summer with the girls in Dorset. If I hadn't been covered with Simplyhealth, we would definitely have had to cancel one or other of these trips," she says.
- 1 Malaysian cyclist could face disciplinary action after 'Save Gaza' gloves protest
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage from US parenting groups
- 4 McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
- 5 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
iJobs Money & Business
£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...
£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar