Frightened of NHS dentists? At £40 a filling, you will be

Subsidised treatment is hard to find and prices are rising. Sam Dunn looks at ways to grin and bear the pain of going private

Your trip to the dentist is about to get more painful. A shake-up intended to reverse the decaying number of NHS dentists is likely to lead to a doubling of charges for basic treatment such as check-ups, to £12, and fillings, to £40.

Your trip to the dentist is about to get more painful. A shake-up intended to reverse the decaying number of NHS dentists is likely to lead to a doubling of charges for basic treatment such as check-ups, to £12, and fillings, to £40.

Over the next 12 months, a pricing overhaul will do away with 400 separate treatment charges and replace them with tiered fees. Dentists will be paid per patient instead of per treatment, putting a price cap on the costlier procedures.

However, uncertainty about what the changes will mean in the long term, and the fear that they will lead to lower income, could cause many of the remaining NHS dentists to go private. Still more people would then have to pay for treatment.

The changes are part of a desperate Government attempt to make dental treatment more widely available on the NHS. In 1994, 25 million people in Britain were registered with an NHS dentist; today, that figure has fallen to barely 18 million - less than half the adult population.

Searching for an NHS dentist in your area is often a futile exercise, with the shortage of practices leading to long waiting lists. Some 800 new dentists graduate each year - not enough, admits the British Dental Associ- ation. There are plans to establish another 170 places at dental schools from next October. In the meantime, dentists are being recruited from India and Poland.

Against this background, consumers are left gnashing their teeth. "People avoid going to the dentist because of the cost, and also the difficulty of getting on to an NHS list," says John Cox of the consumer body Which?.

"When the pain is then really bad [and requires more treatment than if they had seen a dentist sooner], they have to go private, where it's expensive."

New guidelines recently proposed an end to the six-month dental check-up in favour of a "needs-must" approach. But for those on low incomes with poor teeth and who can't find an NHS dentist, the cost of any kind of private treatment could be prohibitive. Even a simple check-up, descale and polish can come to as much as £50.

One way to cut down on dental bills is to take out a "capitation" repayment plan. For a fixed monthly sum, your teeth will be covered for any routine and emergency dental procedures - regardless of how much treatment you have. The cost will depend on the state of your teeth. When you sign up, a dentist gives your mouth an oral MOT; you will then be charged according to a price-banding system.

Denplan operates the UK's biggest such scheme, with more than 6,000 member dentists offering their services to around 1.3 million patients. It has five price bands, charging an average of £15 a month. This covers check-ups, X-rays and restorative work, including root canal treatment. Emergency cover is also included.

But Denplan's customers will benefit most if they require major restorative treatment: charges for a new bridge, for example, can start at around £600. However, in such cases, you'll still be expected to pay the laboratory fee, which can be as much as £80. Watch out, too, for exclusions; cosmetic dentistry, such as teeth whitening, isn't covered.

Schemes like Denplan help dentists to spot problems early on and take preventive action. If you move to a different area, you will have to undergo another oral health assessment with your new Denplan dentist. Your monthly charge may also increase if dental costs are higher than in your previous area - for example, in a large city.

An alternative to capitation schemes is dental insurance. You can use this to help pay for NHS treatment - if you're lucky and can find it - as well as private dental care, and premiums won't depend on the condition of your teeth. You pay the bill up front and claim the charges back on your policy.

There are limits, though, to the level of reimbursement you can expect to receive. Specialist insurer WPA Providental charges a flat rate of £11.84 a month for 18- to 49-year-olds and provides up to 75 per cent of the cost of routine treatment to a maximum of £250 a year.

You qualify for up to £1,000 a year for emergency treatment, and as much as £20,000 to cover serious dental injury, for example a blow to the face.

Remember that you'll still have to pay for a quarter of the cost of any treatment, up to a maximum of £500 per claim. You'll also have to wait for three months after taking out a policy before you can claim on it. (In the case of accidents, this is reduced to two weeks.)

Cash plans from providers such as healthcare mutual HSA can also help cover treatment costs; these start from as little as £1.35 a week.

If you can't find an NHS dentist and have to go private - even if you are taking out insurance to help pay for this - always ask to see price lists and compare charges between practices before signing up.

BRUSHED OFF

You can ask to be registered at any NHS dental practice - but expect long waiting lists.

Alternatively, you can search for an NHS dentist on the internet. Try www.nhs.uk or www.dpb.nhs.uk/patient/patient.shtml.

Even if you do get treated on the NHS, you'll still pay 80 per cent of the cost of any procedure, though treatment is free for the under-16s, full-time students under 19, mums-to-be and mothers with children under one year.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before