Do you need dental insurance?

Dental insurance

Do you need dental insurance?

By Simon Miller

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Do you need dental insurance?

Is dental insurance worth taking out? We explain some of the benefits and drawbacks of dental insurance and who it's best suited to.

Dental insurance may seem like a good investment, but it's worth weighing up the pros and cons against how often you visit the dentist each year, whether you visit a NHS or private clinic and your overall oral health.

NHS dental insurance policies

As shown in our dental insurance comparison table, the cost of an NHS-only dental insurance policy can vary from £72 to £198 a year for a 60-year-old.

Although most NHS only policies have no limit to the amount of treatments you can claim back in a year, if you have good oral health and visit the dentist once a year for a check-up and a scale and polish (costing £18.80 under band 1 on the NHS) cover may not be necessary.

On the other hand, if you had to pay out for a band 3 treatment on the NHS, such as a crown, this would cost you £222.50. This would be covered by an NHS-only insurance policy in full and the annual premium would work out cheaper than pay-as-you-go on the NHS.

Private dental insurance

The cost of dental insurance policies that cover private treatment can vary from as low £104 with a policy from Simplyhealth up to £337 with a policy from Bupa for a 60-year-old.

Nearly all of the policies we looked at add a cap to the percentage they will pay out for treatments, ranging from 50% to 75%.

Private treatment is much more expensive than on the NHS, so you should consider whether you would be happy to pay out towards treatment costs if you had to make a claim on top of the monthly premium.

Dental payment plans, also known as 'capitation' plans offer an alternative to dental insurance to pay for private dental treatment. Although a full dental payment plan maybe expensive, all treatment costs are fully covered.

Dental insurance: pros and cons

We list some other factors to consider before opting for a dental insurance policy:

Pros

  • If you had a dental emergency or accident which could potentially be expensive, this is typically covered by a dental insurance policy. Many will also cover you for accident or emergency if you're overseas.
  • You can also choose whether to pay monthly or annually to suit your circumstances - dental insurance can provide peace of mind if you're worried about forking out for large bills. Some policies allow you to choose your dentist and claim for treatment, whether done privately or on the NHS.
  • All of the policies we looked offered one-off oral cancer cover.
  • The majority of NHS-only policies offer unlimited cover more than a year, which can work out cheaper in premiums than paying out for the top band of treatment on the NHS. Check our dental insurance tables to see which offers the best level of cover to match your needs.
  • Some dental insurance policies have no upper age limit for new customers. 

Cons

  • Dental insurance can be expensive and many policies do not pay out for the full cost of private treatment. For example, dental insurance policies from Simplyhealth and Dencover cap the cost of treatment at 50% and 55% respectively at a private dental clinic. If you're looking for fully comprehensive cover for private treatment consider a dental payment plan
  • All of the policies we looked have a one- to six-month qualifying period during which you can't claim for treatment. 
  • Cover for cancer is just on a one-off basis. If you've already had mouth cancer this would be excluded from the policy.
  • If you're able to get easy access to NHS care and your oral health is generally good, you'd be better off seeing an NHS dentist for occasional check-ups.