Dentistry work can be costly at the best of times, but the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted more than ever the importance of looking after your teeth in order to safeguard your smile.

Non-urgent dental treatments like check-ups, scaling, and polishing and orthodontic care, which would normally be covered by health insurance, were all suspended following the outbreak.

With patients unable to visit dentists over the last few months for anything except emergency care, many more of us have naturally been thinking about how best to pay ourselves for the healthy maintenance of our mouths and teeth.

It’s no secret that looking after your teeth can be an expensive business. Even before the pandemic, the main reason people delayed or avoided going to the dentist was the cost involved, according to the Oral Health Foundation which found just over a third of Britons are sacrificing dental visits to keep their bank balance in check.

What’s more this figure has more than doubled in the last two years, with money worries accounting for as little as 17% of non-attendances as recently as 2017.

Either way, good dental health is crucial for all of us, so if you have private medical insurance in place it’s always worth checking to see if your policy includes dental health and what treatments you are entitled to, especially now that most dentists have re-opened.

What treatment is available on the NHS?

The NHS will provide any clinically necessary treatment needed to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy and free of pain. Although it’s possible to receive dental care on the NHS, for most people this doesn’t mean it’s free.

Even if you can see an NHS dentist, the cost of dental treatment can be expensive - the highest band of treatment, which includes crowns, dentures, and bridges, costs over £260.

There may also be a waiting list for treatment, especially following the Coronavirus crisis, and only certain treatments will be available on the NHS.

What is dental insurance?

Dental care is not routinely included in most healthcare policies, but many are able to include it as an optional extra at an additional cost. You can also get standalone dental insurance for NHS-only treatments, or for NHS and private dentistry combined.

Either option will help cover the costs, however, and for policies that include private treatment, it could mean faster treatment too.

Dental insurance also lets you pay a monthly premium to cover the cost of any dental treatment you might need in a year and is available at different levels of cover just like regular private medical insurance policies.

Routine dental policies usually cover:

  • The cost of routine NHS treatments, such as check-ups and a scale and polish.
  • NHS costs up to a certain maximum limit that will cover treatments such as fillings, crowns and bridges.
  • Cover for emergencies that require immediate medical attention and accidents, where something has happened to damage your teeth or mouth and you need urgent medical attention to fix it.
  • One-off payment for oral cancer.
  • Worldwide dental cover.
  • Some private treatment, such as cosmetic work, may also be included but won't usually be automatic, and generally only comes with more expensive policies.

What don’t they cover?

Most policies won’t usually cover:

  • Pre-existing conditions, so you can’t take out cover to try to fix an expensive dental disaster that you're already aware of, for example.
  • The first three months of a policy being put in place, unless it's for a routine check-up.
  • Cosmetic treatments.
  • Treatments that are not clinically necessary, unless as part of a course of NHS dental treatment

Exclusions to dental insurance will vary from policy to policy, so make sure you check the terms of your policy for what is included.

Remember also that not all policies are the same. Prices start from £9 per month* with different levels of cover to suit your individual needs.

Many people now take out dental insurance as a standalone policy but if you are an existing PMI customer, it’s also worth bearing in mind that it’s probably cheaper to put it as an ‘add on’ to an existing policy.

Our partners at Aviva have an option of dental and optical cover where you can claim up to £300 of routine dental treatment cover or up to £600 of dental treatment cover following an accident, for example. Similarly, AXA offers an add-on which covers 80% of your dentist’s fees, up to £400 each year.

As with any healthcare policy, when it comes to finding the best dental health cover for you and your family there is a lot of choice. If you’re unsure which is most suitable, call our freephone Health Insurance number 0800 862 0373 and we’ll go through the options with you.

And, until you decide, keep brushing and flossing those teeth in the meantime!

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*Based on a 39-year-old female non-smoker getting a quote with WPA on 16/7/20.