The true cost of dental

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Wednesday, 3 April, 2019

Who covers the cost of caring for your teeth? With Australians spending approximately $10 billion per year on dental work, we look at who’s footing the largest share of the bill – you or your private health insurance – and where you can save the most money while looking after your teeth.

Is private health insurance worth it?

Are Aussies getting a raw deal when it comes to private health insurance and out of pocket expenses for dental treatment? We think so.

Figures show that while we pay $9.6 billion annually in dental services, private health insurance contributed only 18 per cent to the total costs. Leaving consumers to pay for most of the bills via out-of-pocket expenses (57 per cent), followed by government programmes (24 per cent)*.

Higher premiums for less benefits

The main issue is ‘extras cover’, which includes ancillary benefits like dental, physio and chiro. Figures show that we are paying more in policy premiums than we receive back via benefits – a gap of approximately $6.2 billion over the last five financial years.

Think of it this way. If your house burns down and you are adequately insured, you will get a new house from your insurer. But if all your teeth need to be replaced, your private health insurer will only repay five per cent of the total cost, even if you have the highest level of dental cover. A raw deal indeed.

Credit cards and payment plans

Many dentists have extended their usual debit and credit card payment options to include payment plans like Zip and Afterpay – which include interest free periods and personalised monthly payment options. While these do provide greater flexibility when it comes to paying your bill, patients should be aware that there is a significant risk of paying higher costs if these are not paid off in time.

New ways to invest and save

Several new options are coming to the market for patients considering alternative approaches to paying for health care.

Health savings accounts

Health savings accounts like or cryptocurrency like allow you to invest a regular amount each month or fortnight to pay for health treatment. The plus side is that every dollar you invest is yours to spend on healthcare – unlike health insurance where few customers get back what they pay on premiums.

Health personal loans

Another option, possibly for larger treatment costs, is to take a personal loan. Providers like Total Lifestyle Credit specialise in loans for health and lifestyle procedures. They offer longer payment periods with fixed interest rates for greater transparency. 

Good value dentistry

Of course, the best place to start saving on your dental care is to find a dentist committed to providing high quality care at a fair price. Find a dentist that provides good value at

* AIHW Health Expenditure in Australia, 2014-15.