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?
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?