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Dental health insurance

NHS dental treatment is available in most areas, but for some people, private treatment is an option. This may be because an NHS dentist is not available locally, or because a type of treatment is not available on the NHS.

Unlike most other NHS treatments, NHS dentistry is not free, and most patients have to contribute towards the cost of dental treatment. However, these costs are usually considerably less than a private dentist might charge.

Some people take out dental health insurance or private dental plans to cover private and/or NHS treatments.

This may be for reasons such as peace of mind about costs in the event of future dental problems. However, as with any financial decision, it is worth checking the pros and cons of policies, the amount of cover provided, eligibility and exclusions.

Before taking out a plan it is important to know that you may be entitled to free NHS treatment. Free NHS dental treatment is available to people who are:

  • Under 18
  • Under 19 and receiving full-time education
  • Pregnant or had a baby in the previous 12 months
  • Staying in an NHS hospital when treatment is done by a hospital dentist
  • An NHS hospital dental service outpatient, though dentures or bridges may still be chargeable
  • Receiving certain benefits, including income support, ESA and Jobseeker's Allowance

There are two main types of dental insurance plans available. They are those offered by insurance companies direct to the consumer (standalone dental insurance) and those where the cover is arranged directly with your dentist (capitation plans).

Standalone dental insurance.

A large number of insurance companies offer this. You pay a premium to the insurers, and they will pay claims based on the treatment you receive. The policies vary in what they cover, but typically you will be able to claim for maintenance such as regular check-ups and any necessary X-rays and treatment, including fillings and extractions. Crowns and bridgework may be excluded. With some companies you can see any dentist, but with others you have to choose a dentist from the company’s own approved list of practitioners. The cheaper plans will only refund NHS dental charges, not those from a private dentist. Care is required before taking out such a policy, because for it to be effective, you will have to be registered with an NHS dental practice, and one that you are happy with. In some parts of the country, finding an NHS dentist who will accept you onto his or her list is difficult. Basic low-cost plans may suit someone who has good dental health and rarely needs treatment.

Some private medical insurers also offer dental cover, either as an extra, or are included on one of their premium products. If you are already paying for private medical insurance, adding dental cover may involve only a small increase in premium.

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