Guide to private dental insurance
Private dental insurance is not a requirement as everyone is entitled to dental care on the NHS (National Health Service). However, due to the huge demand for dental care, finding a practice taking on new NHS patients is harder than it might seem.
The NHS is supposed to either provide free or subsidised health care to people in the UK, but with many lists closed to adults and children, private dental care (like private health care) is becoming ever more popular.
Private dental care falls into two main categories: dental insurance and capitation schemes.
Types of Dental Cover
For patients that can't get NHS dental work, an insurance policy is often the next port of call. The insurance covers routine examinations or check-ups, accidents and emergencies and other treatment.
There are annual caps in place, usually around the £1,000 mark, but there might also be a limit to the cover per treatment.
It's important that patients remember they won't be able to claim on their insurance for at least a month after purchasing the policy, but some can take up to three months until they will pay out
New private patients are more than likely to be offered a dental plan by their dentist. This is designed to spread the cost of treatment and check-ups over 12 months.
There is also the option to simply 'pay as you go'. For individuals that only visit the dentist every 12 months for a check-up and have excellent dental health, this can often work out cheaper. It's important that those without cover are aware of the high costs in the event that more serious treatment is required.
What is included with Dental Insurance?
Neither dental insurance nor a capitation scheme will pay out for cosmetic dentistry, such as teeth whitening or veneers, as it is not deemed necessary. However, other treatment available will vary depending on the type of private dental care and level of cover.
For example, a budget capitation plan may cover routine work, such as check-ups and X-rays and scale & polish, whereas a comprehensive dental insurance policy may provide cover for general treatment, injuries, emergencies and serious oral diseases.
Applying for Dental Cover
The difference between applying for dental insurance and dental capitation plan is that the latter requires an examination. When getting a quote for dental insurance, the applicant will only need to provide their age. However, the monthly cost of a capitation scheme is dependent upon oral health, so applicants will need to be examined by the dentist first.
What does Private Dental Insurance cost
It's important to repeat there are different levels of cover with dental insurance, so the annual premium will vary depending on what policy has been taken out, but it tends to be somewhere between £50 and £250 a year.
Individuals can choose the level of cover, from basic care to a more comprehensive treatment policy. Cheaper insurance plans may only pay out for half of the treatment and have a lower cap on benefits.
Most policies will require a payment towards the cost of treatment, with most paying out a maximum of 70%, unless the work is done with an NHS dentist, in which case they might repay the full value.
Capitation plans vary in price depending on dental health. When the patient undergoes the initial assessment, the dentist will give a score from A-E, with A being the best health, therefore a cheaper plan. Monthly fees tend to be anywhere between £10 and £20 per month, but patients may also have to pay a joining fee.
What are the benefits of Private Dental Cover
The cost of private dental care can be astronomical unless individuals are protected by a suitable insurance plan. Unless people are unable to rely on an NHS dentist, it's important to have some form of cover in place for peace of mind.
Some dental insurance policies don't have an upper age limit for new policyholders, whereas older patients are unlikely to be eligible for joining a capitation scheme.
However, capitation plans do cover 100% of treatment costs, so patient can relax knowing that their dental care is covered without having to pay anything additional.
Are there any Limitations to Private Dental Insurance covers
Although joining a capitation plan can spread the cost of dental care, it ends up being expensive for patients with good oral health. Paying the fixed monthly fee can add up to over £240 a year, when an annual check-up may only cost around £20
There is the same problem with dental insurance, but this does tend to be a lot cheaper than a capitation plan. Most budget policies start from as little as £50 per year.
Dental capitation schemes are tied directly to the dentist, so patients are unable to visit another dentist on the same plan. Despite this, dental insurance requires the patient to make a payment, similar to an insurance excess, before paying out for treatment.
There are pros and cons to all types of dental care, whether it's on the NHS, with dental insurance or on a capitation plan. Before making a decision, it's important that UK consumers compare prices and consider their personal needs.