Good oral health is an important component to an overall healthy lifestyle regardless of your age or sex. That is why it is so important for people to make regular visits to the dentist for routine oral care. When dental emergencies arise, seeking proper care is even more important.
Importance of Routine Care
Routine care is essential to good oral health. For example, making sure dental cavities are filled before they create problems that are more serious should be part of any standard dental treatment plan. Untreated cavities can lead to impacted teeth that may eventually need to be pulled or subject to root canal. Impacted teeth can lead to other complications as well; they are, by definition, infected.
One thing you do not have to worry about is the long-held myth that gum disease and heart disease are related. The Mayo Clinic and other trusted sources reported in November 2012 on comprehensive research that debunked the myth once and for all. There is no relationship between oral infections or swelling and potential heart disease.
Standard Service Provided by the NHS
For routine dental care, the NHS system is adequate. Routine care including cleanings and cavity fillings are available from any NHS dentist at a very reasonable cost. The Money Advice Service quotes the following prices for England:
- routine check-up and cleaning - £17
- fillings and root canals - £47
- crowns and bridges - £200
If you are pregnant or on Income Support you may be eligible for free dental service through the NHS in England. Dental care for children is always free. Moreover, if you live in Wales, routine check-ups are free as is dental care for those age 65 and older.
Based on this pricing, it makes sense that a good number of UK residents could get by without dental insurance. However, what if your family history suggests you may be in store for serious dental work in the future? The cost of having half a dozen cavities filled within a 12-month span is just one scenario under which you would pay less with dental insurance than without it.
Private Dental Care
Private dental care is an option in the UK for those who prefer not to use the NHS. But bear in mind that private care routinely costs nearly twice as much as NHS care; in some cases, four times as much. If you choose to utilise private care then you will almost certainly want dental insurance to help defray your out-of-pocket expenses.
In terms of how you are charged, there is a vast difference between private care and the NHS. In simplest terms, the NHS charges a flat rate for an entire range of care while a private dentist will charge for each individual service. For example, the NHS charges £204 for everything needed to complete a root canal and crown. A private dentist will charge separately for the x-ray, root canal, crown, and follow-up treatment.
Some UK residents prefer private care because they feel it is superior to what the NHS offers. That may or may not be true, but it is more expensive nonetheless. The deciding factor for many people is the combination of their age and oral health history.
Young people with few dental issues are typically better off with NHS care. Even with regular check-ups throughout the year, this type of person would pay just £34 annually if no further work were needed. On the other hand, older people with a myriad of dental issues will find dental insurance and more affordable option.
Dental Insurance Costs and Coverage
The most important thing to remember about dental insurance is the fact that you will still have to pay something out of pocket whenever you seek dental care. There is no way to avoid at least some immediate expense. Beyond that however, dental insurance policies cover a wide range of prices and coverage options.
The cheapest cover in the UK starts at about £50 per year. This type of policy is one that offers basic coverage including things like routine visit, cleanings, and fillings. The most expensive policies can run up to £250 annually and cover most dental procedures.
When you are comparing dental insurance options, pay special attention to a couple of things:
- Coverage Limits - Private dental insurance usually includes coverage limits for specific procedures. Root canals are one example. A dental insurance policy may have an annual cap of £500 for work on root canals, meaning you would be saddled with the remaining expense out of pocket.
- Reimbursement Rates - Some dental insurance policies will reimburse you 100% for work done through an NHS dentist but only 75% for work done with a private dentist. Reimbursement rates are something you really need to be careful of so that you are not caught unprepared.
- Limits on Cosmetic Dentistry - Because cosmetic dentistry is rarely deemed a necessity, it is usually very expensive for the consumer. Some private dental insurance will not provide even a minimal amount of coverage for cosmetic services.
- Waiting Periods - In order to prevent consumers from purchasing dental insurance after they develop problems, most insurance providers institute a waiting period of between 3 to 6 months before claims can be made. Some also limit the amount of care that can be reimbursed during the first visit.
Some UK employers provided dental cover to workers as an added benefit. When they do, it is typically in the form of basic coverage intended to be preventative in nature. If you are not sure whether your employer offers dental insurance, be sure to ask the human resources department.
If you are eligible for dental coverage, you may be asked to participate by contributing some amount. Alternatively, your employer may be willing to pick up the entire cost of the insurance for you. In either case, most everything else we have discussed so far still applies to employer-sponsored dental plans.
Other Options for Paying for Dental Care
Perhaps you are content with standard NHS service for now, but you are concerned about paying for your dental care in the future. There are other options if you do not want to purchase insurance. The first of those options is what is known as the "pay-as-you-go" system. Net Doctor describes pay-as-you-go as simply paying your dental bills with cash as you receive care. Pay-as-you-go is effective but expensive.
A second option is to self-insure. This option requires a little bit of self-discipline in that you need to set aside money every month to be used for future dental care. If you have the discipline, an individual savings account (ISA) is a good vehicle for self-insuring.
The third option offered by Net Doctor is to purchase a health cash plan. This medical plan allows you the opportunity for low-cost coverage that can be used to help defray the costs of all types of medical care. With this type of plan, you could use the money for other health-related expenses if you did not need dental care.
A fourth option is something known as "medical tourism." This option involves taking advantage of your annual holidays to seek medical care in countries where it is significantly less expensive. Medical tourism is becoming a very popular option because you can get the care you need at 25% to 50% of what costs at home.
Capitation Plans from Your Provider
Private dental care is growing in the UK very steadily. However, because the vast majority of citizens rely on dental care from the NHS, private dental practices are still competing aggressively for new patients. One of the tools they are using to attract new customers is the dental capitation plan.
A capitation plan is based on the idea that a patient will be seeking routine dental care throughout the year. It essentially sets up a monthly payment option that allows the patient to include dental care as part of the monthly budget. The consumer makes a payment every month, regardless of whether or not treatment is needed, with the assumption that all of their care will be covered.
The one thing about capitation plans you need to beware of is the fact that rates depend on your age and the current condition of your teeth. The more work you are likely to need, the higher your monthly payment will be. In some cases you might get away cheaper with standard dental insurance.
Dental insurance is a great option for those who need extensive dental work. Consumers who can get by with routine check-ups and cleanings may not find insurance better than the care provided by the NHS. A proper analysis of your current dental care and what you are expecting and the future should help you decide whether insurance is right for you.
You can purchase breakdown cover directly from insurance providers if you prefer. To get you started heading in the right direction, here are links to well-known companies offering this type of insurance:
AXA - AXA dental insurance starts at just 33 pence per day. Their coverage reimburses 100% of your expenses when receiving care from an NHS dentist.
Boots - Boots is an international pharmacy company focused on health and beauty. Their dental insurance plans start at just £9.75 per month. Right now, their introductory offer allows you to save 10% when you purchase dental insurance through them.
Tesco Bank - Get dental insurance here along with the other products and services Tesco Bank offers. New customers purchasing dental insurance prior to 19 February 2013 receive one month's cover free.
Bupa - Offers several different dental plans for both NHS and private care patients. New patients can begin utilizing the cover right away with no waiting period.
Denplan - The dental plans you find on this site allow you to spread the cost of your family's routine dental care across a full year's budget. Denplan is the UK's leading dental plan specialist with nearly 2 million patients enrolled.
Simply Health - Choose from four different cover options from Simply Health. New patients who sign up before the end of January 2013 get one-month cover free along with a £15 Love2shop voucher.
Dencover - The quotes you receive here start at as little as £4.99 per month for a single subscriber. Dencover offers as much is £12,000 of annual coverage for just £9.99 per month.
If you are not yet ready to purchase your dental insurance, perhaps you might need a little more information. These links will take you to sites where your questions can be answered. Some of them offer limited comparisons between multiple providers.
Money Saving Expert - Check out this site for a ton of useful information about UK dental insurance. There is lots of good advice here if you are trying to decide whether you should buy.
Private Healthcare UK - This site offers comprehensive information about a variety of private healthcare topics, including dental insurance. If you are ready to purchase after reading the information you can get a quote here as well.
Which - A very good site for answering your dental insurance questions and point you in the right direction for quotes. The site also offers valuable information regarding other financial services and products as well.
Money Maxim - A financial advice website offering useful and timely information regarding a variety of financial topics. Their dental insurance advice includes a link to compare quotes if you are ready to purchase.
Dental Buddy - A site offering cost comparisons among several different dental insurance providers. Their preferred provider is Simply Health.