Everyone needs dental treatment at some point in their life so insuring your teeth makes plain good sense. But choosing a dental insurance policy can be a daunting prospect.
Making sense of the myriad of different options and dental cover available can be difficult. This is your definitive guide to dental insurance: what kinds are available, what they cover, what they won't.
Armed with the right information, you can make steps towards securing your smile.
HOW IMPORTANT IS YOUR SMILE TO YOU?
We often take our teeth for granted. They are vital to our smile and our confidence; our food and health; and the condition of a persons teeth can be a major indicator of their likelihood to suffer from heart disease. And yet, in a 2008 study, only 52.7% of the UK population visited an NHS dentist; excluding children, this fell to 48.3%.
While children and those on benefits can still receive free dental treatment, even NHS treatment is not completely free. Finding an NHS dentist can also still be hard. Finding someone you trust with your smile can be harder still.
But dentists' charges can be high, and getting higher all the time. Even routine check-ups and smaller treatment can incur large bills, self-paying can leave you vulnerable to large bills for treatment that is needed out of the blue. This is where dental insurance enters the frame.
Like medical insurance, dental insurance offers greater freedom of choice and security against the unexpected large treatment costs. Unlike insuring your general health, dentistry requires routine check-ups to be effective and so it is a requirement of many plans that you see a dentist on a regular basis.
Many plans will offer reimbursement towards limited routine treatment to cover this: check-ups, hygienist appointments, fillings. This makes dental treatment fundamentally different in nature from most insurance plans, which are based on risk, and is why dental and medical insurance are generally treated as discrete covers.
Children will often receive free treatment at the NHS but instilling a positive view of dentists and dental health from an early age can make a huge difference to young lives and so often parents choose to remain with private dentists. When choosing a dental insurance policy, be sure to investigate what is available for children as many offer special rates for children, or even education plans for younger children.
Let's examine some of the types of plans on the market.
DENTAL HEALTH INSURANCE
There are two main kinds of dental insurance plans.
Dental cash plans reimburse the costs of routine dental treatment and emergency treatment, including charges for treatment on Bank Holidays of the weekends, up to a pre-set maximum in a plan year. You may still reclaim routine costs even if you use the NHS but have the flexibility to use private dentistry as well. Reimbursement may be limited for larger routine treatments such as root canal.
There will usually be some form of co-insurance: a share of the costs that you will pay, such as 25% or 50%. It is anticipated that this will stop people claiming unnecessarily and thereby helping to keep regular premiums down.
Some plans may blend routine cash plans with more extensive insurance, allowing cover as well for big-ticket items with five-figure treatment costs, such as dental injuries and defined oral problems such as mouth cancers.
Another option is a 'capitation plan'. Particular dentists who subscribe to the plan can offer payment across the year to cover scheduled check-ups as well as a range of specific treatments, such as root canal, fillings, extraction, bridges, dentures and inlays.
These plans will generally be priced on the quality of your teeth and you may have an initial inspection to determine your dental health. These plans may necessitate you seeing particular dentists, unless it is an emergency situation. It does mean dental costs can be more evenly spread over the year as.
Note that even these plans would generally have extra costs that are not covered, including lab or sedation fees, treatment that is not carried out in the dentist's chair or any treatment that is not clinically necessary: i.e. porcelain veneers, whitening or other cosmetic treatment.
Some dental cover may be available for the removal of wisdom teeth; however, a removal of any complexity would not take place in the dentist's chair and therefore may also be excluded.
Orthodontic treatments, such as braces, are generally not covered because they are not generally clinically necessary but rather cosmetic.
Emergency dental treatment abroad may also be covered under some plans. Be sure to consult the specifics stated in the guidebook of your chosen dental insurance plan, take a note of any emergency contact number and keep your dental insurance provider informed of any treatment you are due to undertake ahead of time.
THE CHOICES YOU HAVE
With so many different dental insurance plans on the market, and the market changing all the time, you will need to weigh up the benefits and costs of each one individually. Do you prefer the thoroughness of a capitation plan or the flexibility of a dental cash plan?
Dental insurance quotes will differ greatly so you will need to keep an eye on what is and what is not covered and make an effective comparison of the merits of each plan.
But what is certain is that by informing yourself on what is available, you have taken a crucial step towards securing your smile for the long-term.
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