‘My plan saves shock on bills’: Can’t get an NHS dentist? The answer starts at £10 a month
If you’ve tried to book an NHS dental appointment in the past year, you will know just how hard it has become. Dentists are overstretched with huge backlogs of patients needing treatment. Between April 2020 and December last year, 40million fewer courses of treatment were carried out, according to the British Dental Association.
It’s not just adults who are facing problems. Doctor Noushin Attari, a dentist at Weymouth Street Paediatric Dentistry in Marylebone, Central London, says: ‘NHS dentists in parts of England are still refusing to offer dental examination appointments for children.
‘As a specialist paediatric dentist working in the private sector, we are finding that more parents are seeking urgent dental treatment for their children, many in pain.’
Check-ups: Laura Howland has had a dental plan with Denplan since she was in her early 20s
My plan saves shock on bills
Laura Howland has had a dental plan with Denplan since she was in her early 20s. It costs her £15 a month and gives her peace of mind that she won’t be hit with any nasty dental bills. It has also instilled in her a discipline to have regular check-ups and see the hygienist twice a year.
The 38-year-old from Lincolnshire, who owns a garden furniture business, says: ‘Luckily, the plan has covered the cost of most of my dental treatment so far which from a financial point of view is brilliant. I’ve never missed a check-up or hygienist appointment.’
In contrast, Kendall Platt, from Berkshire, can’t find a dentist for love nor money. The 35-year-old is entitled to free NHS dental care because she is pregnant. Creator of the Mindful Gardening Planner, Kendall has contacted at least 15 dental practices and none are accepting NHS patients.
‘I’m going to have to pay and go private,’ she says. ‘It’s another expense I could do without. I’m sure I just need a check-up but I’m conscious of the possible negative impact that pregnancy can have on your gums and teeth.’
But if you are desperate to see a dentist, what are your options?
Most dentists perform a mixture of NHS and private treatments. Some procedures are not covered by the NHS, such as teeth straightening, while for others – such as a check-up – you can decide if you want to pay the NHS or the private fee demanded by the dentist.
NHS dental care isn’t free and the costs are divided into three bands, depending on the treatment. In England, band one treatment, which includes a check-up, costs £23.80. Band two treatment, including a filling or an extraction, is £65.20, while band three is £282.80 and includes crowns, dentures and bridges. Costs are slightly less in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There are also exemptions for some, including those under 16, pregnant women and people on a low income or on certain benefits.
By comparison, the private cost will depend on the dentist and the work required, but private charges are around £50 for a check-up, with more extensive work starting at around £500. You can pay from income or savings, or you can buy a monthly ‘capitation’ dental plan to cover yearly private treatment costs. The biggest provider is Denplan. Others include Practice Plan and DPAS. Your dentist will assess how much work they think you’ll need and the monthly cost will reflect this. Plans typically start from around £30 a month – covering the cost of examinations, hygienist sessions and treatments.
An alternative is dental insurance – or private medical insurance that covers dental care. This can cover routine and emergency dental costs for NHS and private treatment. Worldwide cover is often included, too. There is usually a set price depending on your age and you will need to declare any medical conditions. The cost depends on the policy, but some dental insurance is available from around £10 per month, covering routine appointments.
Private medical insurance with dental cover costs on average £1,500 a year, although it rises with age. Typically, there will be an annual limit on the amount of dental costs you can claim. Providers include Axa, Bupa, Simplyhealth and WPA.
A cash plan is often cheaper than health insurance and most include cover for physiotherapy and eye appointments as well. You pay a premium to receive a cash sum for treatment, but it might not cover the full bill. Costs depend on the cover, but WPA’s plans start at £10.56 a month. This covers £65 of dental costs a year, plus £65 of optician charges and £200 of physiotherapy.
Under these plans, you pay upfront for the treatment and then claim back some or all of the cost. Providers include WPA, BHSF and Hive.
Before buying dental insurance or a cash plan, check if your employer offers cover.