/ Health, Money

How do you ease the pain of paying for dental treatment?

A trip to the dentist can be an unnerving affair – the thought of all those peculiar instruments, and then after that angst there’s the bill to pay too. So what’s the best way to spread the costs of dental treatment?

How do you spread the cost of dental treatment? Maybe you have a dental plan or a dental insurance policy to spread the cost, or maybe you pay upfront?

The price differences between NHS and private dental treatment can be huge, but there are options to help manage the expense.

NHS vs private – how it all adds up

Firstly, you need to have a grip on the potential costs for treatments at your preferred practice. NHS treatment is capped in price bands 1, 2, and 3, so working out how much you’ll pay is fairly straightforward.

For example, root canal sits in price band 2 and is capped at £51.30. But if you’re heading to a private practice for the treatment then you could end up paying around £44 for the consultation plus around £290 for the actual procedure (average priced based on the costs of 50 private clinics).

Don’t keep me waiting

It’s not just the cost to consider, though. There’s also your expected waiting times. Last year many of you shared your tales of waiting times woe when trying to book an appointment with an NHS dentist.

So we conducted some mystery shopping of 500 practices offering NHS appointments on the NHS Choices website. We found that one third of practices turned down appointments when we mystery shopped them in March 2015. Then when we tried again in May the situation was slightly worse, at 37%. So it could be a bit of a pain to get your toothache seen to if you’re planning on NHS treatment.

When we polled members who have a dental plan or insurance policy, we found that most had undergone more expensive treatment in the past 12 months. Treatments included having a filling (37%), tooth extraction (12%), root canal (10%), and a quarter of them had been in for emergency treatment. That’s a sizeable proportion who are making pretty good use of their plan or policy.

What’s the best way to pay?

Both dental plans and insurance policies are designed to spread the costs of treatment, and all products that we looked at covered emergency treatment too.

If you’re prone to problematic teeth then paying upfront fees can be expensive, so a dental plan or insurance policy may be suitable for you. And if your pearly whites are in pretty good shape a plan or policy may seem a little excessive. But if you’d still like a means of cushioning the blow, a product like a dental maintenance plan can help cover routine visits and provide a discount on treatment costs.

For customer satisfaction our members voted dental insurance higher than plans. But it’s worth bearing in mind that a dental plan is bespoke and decided by you and your dentist based on your requirements, such as oral health and budget.

In contrast, many dental insurance policies we looked at capped how much they’d pay out towards treatment costs. So make sure you check the small print of the plan or policy, and consider the cost against the cover offered.

So what works for you… do you already have a dental plan or insurance policy? Or would you rather just pay the costs yourself?


My practice went “private” along with pretty much else available in the area and the option was to join the dental plan or do without a dentist. The commercial plan was then changed by the practice to one of their own, and I currently pay them a monthly fee which covers most work to be done. The dentist has an option to increase the amount if he feels that there is excessive demand on his time, but so far he has kept the plan the same, except for a degree of inflation each year; about a pound a month each time. As far as the service is concerned, I see little difference between the old NHS and the current, and recently, appointments for non urgent work have been three months in advance. I hope, and believe that an abscess or similar would be treated almost immediately, but, perhaps by any dentist available at the time.

Everyone in the country should have access to NHS dentistry and if they have an urgent problem it should be dealt with promptly.

I am very happy with the dental practice I use for NHS dental treatment. There is plenty of advertising for private treatment but never once has this been suggested. I have no problem with waiting times and when I recently went for a check-up, there was an A-board outside the entrance inviting new NHS patients.

I’m planning to move home and have been told that NHS dentistry won’t be available locally, so I will have to look into the costs of dental plans or stay with my present dentist and be prepared to travel about 10-15 miles.

I had to pay my NHS dentist for a particular drill piece £60 as he said it would make the time a lot less in my dental work, he even would’t allow me to have it at the end of the treatment which I thought was a bit mean and unfair as I wanted to use it in my sculpture work !

I bet your dentist has not been asked that question before. 🙂 No doubt he can use the drill again, and it would add to his costs if everyone wanted to take home dental drills at the end of their treatment.

I think that was a bit mean too. If you paid the full price of the drill bit then it belongs to you. You expect your dentist to have all the equipment he needs to perform his dentistry.

During my last visit to the dentist we had an interesting discussion about the value of teeth during ones lifetime and he chuckled, but seemed to agree when I said that I thought teeth were an expensive and absolute curse from the moment you are born until the day you die, that is if there are any left by then to continue to cause you misery and pain through having to endure, fully conscious, toothache, needles and drills and ultimately the dreaded pliers!

I share your pain, Beryl. The one and only thing I have needed from a national health service I have had to pay through the nose for. It’s no laughing matter. At least my dentist has the good sense to park his Bentley out of sight of his surgery.

I am currently undergoing quite extensive dental treatment. I have no NHS Dentist and the Dentist I use does not even have a current waiting list for NHS patients. I have to pay privately.
Initial consultation, X Rays and assessment of gum health.
Four fillings, two small and two of which are needed because I have a nasty teeth grinding habit in my sleep and have actually broken my own teeth.
Two surgical extractions.
De-Scale and polish. Total cost – just under £800.00
If I wish to have a silicone shield to protect my teeth when I am asleep, this will be another £165.00
I have always been afraid of the Dentist and am now doubly afraid because I have to take blood thinning drugs and bleeding is a problem.
If you have a NHS Dentist hang on to him for dear life and try to see him regularly or he may throw you off the books.

I am confused. I am six months into a course of treatment involving fillings and a root canal. I thought that it was all capped in the band 2 charge but was horrified(despite diazipam) to be handed an “estimate” for over £200 I have found a website which lists what NHS dentists can cclain from NHS and how much patients can be charged for each proceedure but I had believed that the “band” was what I would pay. As I sat in the chair for the root canal work I was told that he would not proceed unless I signed the estimate. Do I have to pay the £200 odd or the band 2 £50 ish?

My husband paid up front to have all on four dental implants on upper & lower jaw. He should have completed all treatment by now. Unfortunately his dental surgeon left the surgery and his new clinician cannot proceed further due to the angulation of one of the implants. My husband has been referred to another practice whereby he has been informed he has to pay a consultation fee. How can this be when he has paid a substantial amount of money for the whole procedure already? Your advice would be appreciated.