7 ways to cut your dental costsTake care of your teeth for less

07 May 2011

paying a dentist bill

Dental treatment can be expensive, but there are ways you can cut costs.

Almost 40% of people can't afford regular visits to the dentist, according to new research by insurer Simplyhealth. Rising costs have left many people struggling to pay dentistry bills or just skipping the dentist's chair altogether. Which? Money dispenses some top tips on how you can cut your dental costs.

1. NHS treatment

Private dental treatment can cost hundreds, if not thousands for more complicated work, making NHS care by far the cheapest option if you're able to get it. NHS dental charges changed on 1 April this year and now range from £17 for check-ups and minor treatment to £204 for things like crowns, dentures and bridges. Completely free dental care on the NHS is available only to pregnant women, new mothers, children up to 18 and some living on benefits - everyone else pays.

Visit NHS Choices and use their service directory tool to find a dentist in your area, or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

2. Dental insurance

Dental insurance offers flexibility, and can provide peace of mind if you're worried about forking out for big bills. However, it can be expensive, and unnecessary if your teeth are in pretty good health - if you're able to get easy access to NHS care you'd be better off seeing an NHS dentist for occasional check-ups. 

Dental insurance premiums range from around £6 a month for a basic policy, to over £20 for top-level cover. For much more information on the pros and cons of dental insurance, read our expert guide.

3. Capitation plans

Capitation plans allow you to pay a regular monthly amount instead of settling bills after treatment. This can be an effective way to spread the costs if you're likely to require a lot of treatment, and it also means you'll know in advance how much it’s likely to cost.

Fans of these schemes say dentists can devote more time to patients, but critics say patients are pressured into signing up because dentists are keen to boost their potentially more rewarding private practices.

4. Pay-as-you-go treatment

Many dental practices offer a pay-as-you go option, whereby surgeries decide on fixed fees for check-ups and treatments and also set attendance requirements. Paying as you go can prove cheaper than paying for insurance or a capitation plan, although you could be left with a big bill for one-off treatments.

5. Private medical insurance

Some private medical insurance (PMI) policies cover dental treatment - PMI operates in a similar way to dental insurance in that you claim back the cost of any treatment. However, its crucial to shop around, as policies vary greatly, while PMI doesn't replace all NHS services - for example, accident and emergency treatments aren't covered. See our guide to find out how to cut the cost of PMI.

6. Best Buy electric toothbrushes

In our review of electric toothbrushes, Which? experts put big toothbrush brands such as Oral B and Philips Sonicare to the test. The Philips HX6711/02 Healthy White was found to be our cheapest Best Buy, available for just under £50 at John Lewis. Read our guide on how to buy electric toothbrushes for much more.

7. Go abroad?

Travelling abroad for dental treatment to countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland can be a way of saving money while also taking in a break from home. However, while the savings may be tempting, there could be a number of problems if something goes wrong, while follow-up appointments could prove costly and inconvenient. For more on getting dental treatment abroad and whether its right for you, read the General Dental Council's guide.

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