What's your pain threshold like?
As NHS dentists disappear, insurance plans are queuing up to fill the gap. Jean Eaglesham assesses what they have to offer
Sunday 19 January 1997
The principle of cradle-to-grave cover, cheaply or even freely available to every citizen, has been abandoned. True, free treatment is still on offer to certain groups, including children and pregnant women. But three in four who receive NHS dental treatment have to pay for it. At present, patients pay 80 per cent of the cost, up to a maximum of pounds 325 for a course of treatment.
The set charges for NHS treatment are still far lower than typical charges for private treatment. Access to NHS treatment is not, however, automatic. The creeping privatisation of the dental profession means that people who do not qualify for free treatment are finding it difficult to find a dentist who will agree to treat them as NHS patients.
One in three people claim it is difficult to find a local NHS dentist, according to a survey conducted for the British Dental Association. The problem is worst in the South-east where more than half of respondents said it was difficult.
The BDA says its members are reluctant to take on NHS patients because of government underfunding. Others see the shift to private provision as inevitable. "Technological improvements mean the cost of treating a single patient can easily run into thousands of pounds," notes Marilyn Orchaton, of Clinident, an insurer.
Whatever the cause it seems clear that few people can rely on being covered indefinitely by the NHS. "Most dentists understand that free dentistry for all is an unrealistic dream," says Peter Sanders, of Bupa. This pessimism is echoed by a survey commissioned by the BDA last year, which found that most MPs questioned believed that NHS treatment would be available only to children and people on low incomes in 10 years.
This is all music to the ears of the big medical insurers, who are queuing up to offer plans to help cover the cost of dental treatment. Provided your teeth are reasonably healthy, however, you may be better off resisting their blandishments and forking out instead for the treatment as and when you need it. The BDA says: "Pay as you go may be cheaper than private dental plans for patients who visit their dentist once or twice a year."
Private dental plans come in one of three main guises.
Capitation schemes, which offer cover for routine dental treatment, such as check-ups and fillings, are the most common type. They are principally a way of spreading the cost of treatment by making a payment each month. The cost depends on the level of cover, your dentist's estimate of how much treatment you will need over the next year and their hourly fees.
The advantage of these schemes is that you cap the cost of standard dental treatment in any one year. But they also have drawbacks. The cost of the most expensive treatments (such as bridgework repairs, crowns and root canal work) is often not fully covered. If you have opted for the cheapest level of cover, they are likely to be excluded.
Capitation schemes also mean that you are restricted in your choice of dentist; less than one-third of dentists offer capitation schemes. Your choice is also restricted by the dominance of Denplan, part of the PPP Healthcare group, which controls more than 86 per cent of the market.
Other dental insurance policies give you the freedom to choose any dentist, but there are not that many policies from which to choose.
You need to weigh up the cost of the premiums against the likelihood that you may need to claim. WPA, which offers one of the few stand-alone dental insurance policies, estimates that claims for routine dental care, which you are almost certain to make, will repay around a third of the annual pounds 86.25 premium.
If you have got private medical insurance (PMI) it is worth checking what dental cover it provides. A handful, such as Clinicare's Carte Blanche, will offer extensive dental benefits as part of the package. Legal & General's Lifetime HealthCare policy offers an annual pounds 200 cash reserve that can be used to pay for routine dental expenses, although policyholders must pay the first pounds 25 of any claim.
But in most cases the cover is more limited. Prime Health, for example, offers cover for emergency (non-routine) treatment only as part of its main PMI policies; and to get even this level of cover added to other Prime Health medical policies, you will have to pay an additional premium of pounds 3 a month. If your employer offers you PMI as a perk, this may cover dental treatment. If not, you can probably pay to get dental cover added.
Jean Eaglesham works for `Investors Chronicle'.
PRIVATE DENTAL PLANS
Insurer Plan name Typical monthly
BUPA 0800 230230 DentalCover pounds 6 to pounds 19
CDC 0181 848 1028 CostCare pounds 7.97 to pounds 10.50*
Clinident 01438 746868 Dental Plan n/a
Denplan 01962 828000 Denplan Care pounds 5 to pounds 15
Densure 01256 221001 Capitation Plans pounds 7.50 to pounds 17**
Norwich Union 0800 336825 Dental Care pounds 6 to pounds 17
Comparing the costs and benefits of private dental plans is difficult since premiums generally vary according to the individual, while the level of cover also varies significantly between plans. This table is a guide to the rough level of charges you can expect to pay for a given plan; it is not a comparison of those plans or the cover they offer. If your dentist tries to sell you a plan, check the cover very carefully before you agree to buy.
*pounds 10.50 for London, pounds 7.97 elsewhere. ** Plus one-off pounds 15 joining fee.
21 November 2014 06:44 PM
Your children have it all, your partner gets nothing
21 November 2014 07:12 PM
Halfords is gearing up for Christmas
21 November 2014 06:54 PM
Fields of dreams: venture capital trusts help young companies to grow, potentially delivering big returns for investors
21 November 2014 06:32 PM
There are many reasons for people to turn to high-cost credit, but being turned down by their banks for a loan is one
21 November 2014 07:15 PM
The £150 incentive from Yorkshire and Clydesdale runs from now until 28 February next year, but you must use the official Current Account Switching Service (CASS) and close your existing account to qualify
14 November 2014 04:42 PM
For the rising number of homeless women, the struggle is compounded by health problems and by losing their children
14 November 2014 05:37 PM
Research from Sainsbury’s Bank Credit Cards this week revealed that 15 per cent of people making a large purchase on their plastic didn’t use one with 0 per cent interest on purchases
14 November 2014 05:23 PM
Last week was hangover time, when Stock Spirits, a vodka producer, distilled a profit warning that sent its shares crashing more than 25 per cent
14 November 2014 05:17 PM
Investment melting pot: the price of gold may have fallen but Artemis Strategic Assets believes its value cannot be debased
14 November 2014 05:05 PM
Interest rates are currently as low as 0.1 per cent
14 November 2014 05:01 PM
The energy watchdog Ofgem has slammed Scottish Power, while Citizens Advice reports a string of complaints about it
14 November 2014 04:57 PM
John Lush from Hampshire got into debt with payday lenders and had the help of a debt management adviser to clear the £20,000 he owed
08 November 2014 12:00 AM
01 November 2014 12:00 AM
01 November 2014 12:00 AM
- 2 Tower Bridge glass walkway 'smashed' by night-time visitor dropping bottle of beer
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
iJobs Money & Business
Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Age Concern Slough a...
Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Crossroads Care is s...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000: SThree: We consistently strive to be ...
£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...
Day In a Page
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
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