/ Health, Money

Can a Dental Payment Plan make pulling teeth less painful?

False teeth gripping onto a twenty pound note

Many people choose dental treatment on the NHS due to the lower prices. Yet others prefer the choice and quality available with private dental care. So could Dental Payment Plans make private prices easier to stomach?

I was surprised by the results of our recent survey of Which? members, which showed that over a third have paid for dental treatment with a Dental Payment Plan, compared to just 10% who held dental insurance.

Worryingly, of those respondents who took out Dental Payment Plans (DPPs), 17% of them admitted they felt pressured by their dentist into taking one out. Since the NHS provides subsidised treatment and access to NHS dental clinics, I wanted to find out why patients might be tempted to take out DPPs.

Why buy a Dental Payment Plan?

DPPs give patients the option to pay a set monthly fee for their dental treatment, which will vary depending on the type of work they might need doing. DPPs are usually used to fund private dental treatment, which is generally more expensive than the equivalent treatments on the NHS.

So why are people tempted by DPPs? In our survey, 35% of respondents said they chose a DPP to help them avoid unexpected bills, while 31% wanted to spread their dental costs rather than paying for treatment upfront.

The cost of these plans can vary from an average of £12.50 a month for a basic ‘maintenance plans’, which cover a set amount of routine examinations and hygienist visits over a year. But they can go up to £25 a month for the same cover plus any extra treatments.

However, DPPs are a good way to spread the cost of private treatment over a year, and your dentist can help you choose which plan is right for your level of oral health. It’s also important to remember there are no guarantees that your payments will cover the cost of the treatment you actually require over the course of a year.

Isn’t the NHS always cheaper?

For most people the cheapest option remains paying for dental treatment on the NHS. For example, the absolute maximum cost of any one bout of treatment will be £209 under current cost bandings. However, on the downside, it can be difficult for some people to find an NHS dentist near to where they live. Ultimately, some prefer the choice and quality available with private care.

But what’s your view on the best route to paying for treatment? Has your dentist tried to pressure you into taking out a DPP? Or do you think these plans offer better value or quality than paying for treatment on the NHS?

Susanne Jones says:
27 November 2012

I had an excellent private Dentist when I lived in the South East and paid into a DPP. I trusted that Dentist not to charge me for work which did not need to be done.

Since moving to Yorkshire I have registered with an NHS Dentist but feel that the quality is nowwhere near as good as my previous one. I am now considering moving to a private Dentist and taking out a DPP to help with future treatment.

At the time the dentists in the south east moved away from the NHS, so did mine, it was pay privately or move, and my wife did have an NHS dentist but was not accepting any more clients. I did try another dentist locally but did not like the setup. My own dentist moved to new premises, and set up a separate hygenist practice within the new premises. So I now attend quarterly for cleaning and still get my teeth fixed if they hurt. It does cost £31 per month, so could be overpaying but it feels like a good service. My wife has just moved from her now private practice to a recently opened NHS dentist. It costs less than mine, but habits are hard to break.

A friend of mine who worked in the insurance industry once gave me this advice:- “If you can afford to bear the risk yourself, never insure anything unless it is a legal necessity. The insurance company profits come from somewhere, and that somewhere is you!”
Is Denplan just an insurance or does it give dentist security of income and so allow them to lower their charges whilst saving you money? Not knowing the answer to this, I have stayed NHS and just paid privately for implants.
What definitely cost me an unnecessary amount was when at a previous NHS practice, my dentist knew that I needed two crowns but spread them over two separated courses of treatment some months apart to ensure that I had to pay £200 twice.

Linda weir says:
13 August 2013

i stayed with my denplan dentist for years. he went from good( when private ) to deceitful and evasive over the years and neglected to treat serious root filing surgery. i went for these appointments 3 times booking double appointments over 2 days, he didn’t treat me and said it was all right , after we’d discussed the treatment . i ended up taking vit c to keep the infection at bay and this year started paying privately . i had moved from mancheste to lincolnshire and finally to cornwall. i travelled to manchester to see him . the final time. then he came to see me while on holiday and offered to,’ take out the blighter,,’ at my home. when i phoned him by accident he gushed about his daughter s illness in a shockingly pushy way, i realised he was trying to fob off what he thought was someone chasing him for negligence. i could go on. i spent £13000 on denplan, now i am poorer, older and sparing gly getting only urgent surgery private.

Vitamin C will not treat infection. Antibiotics will, and good dental hygiene is important to help prevent the problem recurring.

Malcolm Alexander says:
20 January 2017

I expected more information from a Which Survey. This does not compare various insurance plans.

I have always used NHS dentist however they now saying I don’t qualify cause I don’t get benefits and I work fulltime I was told to have a crown was £650 per tooth totalling £1300 for 2 teeth then a further £244 to have 2 teeth out and bridge made, was told this is cheap. Been a single parent and having a 21 year old son out of work I cannot afford this however I’m not sure if dental insurance will help as they only want to pay £300 towards crown per year which means I must still come up with £1000 unless I have 1 done then wait another year. Then there is still the problem of paying for the rest.