Your teeth: an investment that’ll keep you smiling

Posted on: 04 March 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Dr Henry Clover examines the cost of dentistry and analyses what can be done to budget for likely costs.

teeth and dentalThe media bombards us daily with tales of economic crisis - banks struggling, unemployment rising and house prices falling along with interest rates. The impact on the vast majority of us is that the household budget will come under close scrutiny.

Increases in expenditure combined perhaps with lower income from falling investment rates means that tough decisions need to be made.

Cancel the satellite television subscription or the mobile phone contract? Cut back on meals out or find a cheaper hairdresser? Financial advisers recommend listing our outgoings against income, prioritising the essentials and being prepared to put the luxuries on hold.

So where does the cost of dentistry sit on the priority list and what can be done to budget for likely costs?

For many, the thought of visiting the dentist may not be one to relish and if money is tight, there could be a temptation to delay that next check-up appointment. However, the consequences of not keeping up regular visits could be far reaching and more expensive in the long term.

The NHS

So let’s look at budgeting for the cost of regular dental care first of all. Many of us choose to receive dental care through the NHS.

The Department of Health brought in a new contract for dentists in April 2006 along with a new system of banded patient charges which are paid by each patient at the time of their treatment:

Band 1 (£16.20)

This covers an examination, diagnosis (e.g. x-rays), advice on how to prevent future problems, and a scale and polish if needed.

Band 2 (£44.60)

This covers everything listed in Band 1 above, plus any further treatment such as fillings, root canal work or if your dentist needs to take out one or more of your teeth.

Band 3 (£198.00)

 This covers everything listed in Bands 1 and 2 above, plus crowns, dentures or bridges.

Urgent treatment (£16.20)

If you require urgent care, but your urgent treatment needs more than one appointment to complete, you will only need to pay one charge of £16.20.

Payment Plans

Some practices offer NHS only, some are private only, others are mixed and offer private patients dental payment packages to enable them to spread the likely cost of future treatment on a monthly basis.

If you have such a payment plan, monthly fees are set by your dentist based on your individual oral healthcare needs for the year. They not grouped together in one price band like insurance. So, for example, if your teeth are healthy and your husband’s are not so, you can expect to pay less and be on a lower monthly fee as a result.

The plan will cover your dentist’s time to provide all routine and estimated dental treatment for a year, together with cover in the event of an injury or emergency. Typically, for someone who has average dental needs, the daily cost may be less than a quality newspaper. It can be worth shopping around as dentists fees do vary.

Keep In Check

If dental care is neglected, the cost of treatment to rectify problems, be it NHS or private care, can be substantial as modern dental treatments do not come cheap. Some dental practices offer interest-free loans, which can help you in the decision-making process and leave your nest egg intact. Such loans can also be used to fund cosmetic treatment.

It’s important to remember that dental visits are not just about your teeth and gums; the mouth is a window to the overall health of our bodies. Early indicators of many diseases including diabetes, strokes and heart conditions can show up in the mouth and be spotted by your dentist. The earlier the signs can be detected, the greater the chance of successfully treating the problem.

As teeth can, with proper regular care, last a lifetime, it pays to maintain your mouth. Regular dental visits, combined with a thorough daily cleaning routine   - twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste - as well as a healthy diet, are essential to good dental health, which if well maintained, should cost very little in the greater scheme of things.

If you look at oral healthcare in the context of overall health and well being, regular dental care is an essential expense that needn’t break the bank.

Let’s face it, your smile means so much to your family and friends, why cut corners.

About The Author

Dr Henry Clover BDS is a Dental Advisor for Denplan Ltd - formerly in general dental practice and owning his own family practice for many years, Henry now regularly offers advice in the UK media including The Mirror, The Mail, Zest, FHM and Metro.

For more information on dental health, visit www.denplan.co.uk.

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