Dental insurance need not be painful

These days, a visit to the dentist is unpleasantly expensive as well as plain unpleasant. If, like many people, you can't find an NHS dentist, you could get dental insurance instead.

A visit to the dentist these days is unpleasantly expensive as well as plain unpleasant. The government's attempt to make it easier for people to get state-funded care through reforms this April resulted in about 2,000 dentists leaving the NHS, and people are signing up for dental insurance in droves, says Paula Hawkins in The Times. Denplan, one of the major providers, says that more than 200,000 people have joined since April more than the total number of new patients signed up in 2005. My father now routinely flies to Germany for dental treatment and says that in spite of travel and hotel costs, it still costs half what it would if he received the same treatment in London. Vital Europe, an agency which specialises in arranging dental treatment in Budapest and Prague, claims using them will save 70%.

NHS dentist still the cheapest option

There is no doubt that, if you can find an NHS dentist locally, you will pay less, and for all its flaws, the new system has simplified the charging structure. There are now standard charges for procedures: examinations, diagnoses and preventative care is charged at £15.50, fillings and extractions cost £42.50 and more complex procedures, such as dentures, are capped at £189. To obtain a list of local NHS dentists, contact NHS Direct on 0845-4647. If no one will take you on, the options are to go private, take out a dental insurance plan or go abroad.

Do you need dental insurance?

Basically, the deciding factor is the state of your teeth, so you should consult your dentist first to get guidance on the ideal level of cover. Specialist dental cover takes several different forms. One is capitation', where you make monthly payments based on the expected level of treatment. Denplan is one of the biggest providers. After an oral assessment, you pay a registration fee of around £16; the plan then covers routine dental care and emergency treatment. The second type is dental insurance through a firm such as WPA or Universal Provident, which can cost very little say £6 a month but tailors its cover according to your premium. The third option is a cash plan, which will pay your dentist direct. However, HSA's maximum dental payout is £150.

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Should you go abroad for treatment?

Dental insurance is worth considering, as unexpected problems could land you with a bill running into the thousands. If you decide to go abroad, it is best to seek a word-of-mouth recommendation or visit, whose dentists are members of a dental association and which offers a two-year guarantee. Most online agencies are unregulated.

Emily Hohler

Emily has worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.