What's your pain threshold like?
As NHS dentists disappear, insurance plans are queuing up to fill the gap
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.
10 April 2015 07:00 PM
15 April 2015 12:56 PM
Joining Barclays Blue Rewards costs £3 a month but then lets customers in for handouts of up to £15 a month
15 April 2015 07:27 AM
A charity is urging anyone struggling financially to see if they could get help from the state
13 April 2015 11:39 AM
Video: With an election looming, a hung parliament could hit sterling
03 April 2015 08:00 PM
03 April 2015 08:00 PM
02 April 2015 01:14 PM
Video: Tom McPhail, head of pensions at Hargreaves Lansdown, says May's outcome could alter your pension
30 March 2015 04:22 PM
Video: Simon Read talks to Fidelity's Tom Stevenson
01 April 2015 12:00 AM
Video: The Independent's Personal Finance Editor runs you through the key facts about Premium Bonds
27 March 2015 08:30 PM
27 March 2015 08:30 PM
20 March 2015 07:30 PM
Mark Dampier: 'We're on our own in retirement. They've pulled pensions to pieces'
HSBC becomes first bank to offer five-year fixed rate mortgage with interest rate under 2%
Crippling PFI deals leave Britain £222bn in debt
Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers
Barclays new Blue Rewards hands cash to customers. What’s the catch?
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as drink driving, study suggests
- 5 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...
£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...
Day In a Page
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
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
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
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000