The British Society of Dental Hygiene currently estimates that around 45% of UK adults have gum disease. Gum disease increases the risk of strokes, heart disease, diabetes, and other serious medical conditions. Regular dental care can prevent the spread of gum disease.
Dental insurance helps people avoid the long waiting lists for NHS treatment and the hefty private treatment fees. While it is not standard practice in the UK for workplaces to offer dental cover as part of an employment contract package, some employers do, and there are group dental insurance packages available that are perfect for employers.
Access to a good dental insurance plan means that employees are incentivised to visit the dentist more frequently. It also helps to ensure any dental issues they have are identified early, making them less likely to take time off work while they recuperate. And, as we have seen, maintaining good oral health impacts overall bodily health too. Despite this, around 20% of adults say they rarely go to the dentist, with 6% saying they never go.
We are going to take a look at dental insurance, what it is, whether you need it, and whether you can get it from your work.
You can get company dental insurance policies as a form of private health insurance to cover dental treatment for the company's employees. However, it is not regularly offered in the UK as part of an employment contract, though this may change as dentistry is becoming increasingly unaffordable.
The level of cover provided by dental insurance varies depending on the policy and the provider. Most cover regular check-ups, dental emergencies, NHS treatment, and partial reimbursements for private dental treatment.
So let's jump in and find out more about what dental insurance actually is.
Dental treatment with an NHS dentist starts at around £23 for a general check-up and grows to £100s or even £1,000s for specialist treatments. Depending on your age and circumstances, some NHS dentistry is free.
However, while NHS dentists are just as good as private practitioners (and are often the same people), there can be long waiting lists for NHS dentists, and it can even be hard to find vacancies to register with them.
So many people turn to private dentists for their dental work. A private dental check-up usually starts at around £50 but can be as high as £150. And specialist treatments can be very expensive when done privately.
However, with dental insurance, private dentistry can be affordable for most people. There are two types of dental insurance:
- Dental insurance policies. This is when you pay a private dentist for your treatment and then claim the cost back from your insurance provider.
- Dental payment plans. This is when you spread the cost of treatment over a period of time.
Over the last few years, waiting times for NHS doctors and dentists have risen sharply. This is in part due to a backlog created by the coronavirus pandemic, but the healthcare system had already been struggling prior to that.
While you don't need dental insurance, it saves you from being stuck on long waiting lists for treatments or paying large amounts for your oral health.
If your teeth are healthy and you only visit the dentist once a year for a check-up, you likely don't need dental insurance.
Dental insurance is recommended for people who have a history of poor dental health. If you have repeatedly needed to receive costly dental treatment over the years, then dental insurance could end up saving you a significant amount of money.
Also, if you can't find an NHS dentist with space on their books, it can make sense to get a dental insurance policy to help cover the cost of going private.
If you have a dental emergency, you should be able to find an emergency NHS dentist in your local area. However, if you can't, you might have to pay to see an emergency private dentist, which without insurance can be very expensive.
So, while dental insurance isn't needed by everyone, if your workplace offers it as part of your employment contract, it is definitely worth having.
If you are an employer, you might consider offering dental insurance to your employees as part of their employment contract. While this will add to your overall outgoings, it also has many benefits for you and your employees.
- You have a healthy workforce. Helping to maintain your employees' good health is great for them and the business. They stay healthier in the long run and are less likely to call in sick and reduce the company's productivity levels.
- Group plans are cheaper than individual plans. Paying for a big group package is far cheaper than all your employees paying for themselves individually.
- It creates a good working environment. Employees want to work in a place that cares about them and offers them rewards they can't find elsewhere. Dental insurance is a small but significant gesture that shows that the company can help employees with both their oral health and their finances.
As with all types of insurance, dental insurance offers different levels of coverage depending on the policy.
Dental insurance policies cover routine check-ups, as well as some or all of the costs of other medical dental work, including emergencies.
Dental insurance normally covers work done at both NHS practices and private clinics, though some policies cover 100% of NHS costs and only partial reimbursement for private dentistry fees.
There are annual caps on the amount you can claim for certain treatments. The level of this cap depends upon your insurance provider.
Most dental insurance doesn't cover cosmetic work, such as teeth whitening.
Your insurance may also not cover the costs of treating an issue identified at your first check-up if you haven't been to the dentist in over a year.
The cost of dental insurance varies depending on your level of cover and the provider you choose. Most dental insurance plans cost between £70 and £300 a year.
Even with dental insurance, you will still have to pay for some treatments, and insurance is limited regarding how much you can claim back. Some policies will pay you back a percentage of the costs you paid for certain treatments and fully cover you for other treatments. The more expensive the plan, the more you will be reimbursed.
Some dental insurance policies offer full reimbursements for any treatments you get on the NHS.
If you go to an NHS dentist, there are three bands of charges:
- Band 1 costs £23.80. It covers an examination, diagnosis, and advice. It also includes X-rays, a scale and polish, and planning for further treatment.
- Band 2 costs £65.20. It covers all the treatments included in Band 1, plus additional treatments, such as fillings, root canal treatment, and removing teeth.
- Band 3 costs £282.80. It covers all the treatments included in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures, and bridges
As we have seen, NHS dentists can have long waiting lists for treatments and registration. Private dentists are considerably more expensive but have much quicker appointment times.
While you should aim to see the dentist every six months to a year, you should also take care of your oral hygiene daily by setting up a routine you can stick to.
So let's look at some practices you should incorporate to ensure your teeth are kept as healthy as possible.
- You should always brush your teeth before you eat your breakfast.
- Brush for at least two minutes, and brush all areas evenly, including the backs of the teeth.
- Use fluoride toothpaste to clean your teeth.
- Don't rinse your mouth with water when you finish brushing. This allows the fluoride to continue to break down the plaque on your teeth.
- Brush with an electric toothbrush if possible.
- Rinse your mouth with mouthwash after your lunch. Mouthwash is a helpful component of oral health, but it should be used separately from brushing as it can wash away the fluoride from the toothpaste. Similarly, brushing after using mouthwash will brush away the residual fluoride from the mouthwash.
- Floss in the evening before you brush your teeth.
- Brush your teeth before bed, and again, try not to rinse your mouth with water afterwards.
- Don't smoke. The tar in tobacco is one of the worst things for yellowing teeth.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks. Sugary drinks such as fizzy drinks and juice are best avoided if you want to look after your teeth.
Group dental insurance plans can help employees with waiting list times and affordability. While not everyone necessarily needs dental insurance, it encourages people to seek regular care that may help to prevent any oncoming issues that could be a problem in the future.
Not all workplaces offer dental insurance, though some do. Group dental insurance can be a sound investment for employers as it keeps the workforce healthy, helps them with their finances, and shows that the company has their best interests at heart.