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Dental care too expensive? It doesn’t have to be

04 Feb 2021

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In New Zealand, basic dental care is available free-of-charge for eligible children up to the age of 18. This helps set the stage for positive habits into adulthood, encouraging people to take a proactive approach to oral health by driving home the importance of looking after your teeth. Unfortunately, the cost of dental treatment for adults in New Zealand can be prohibitive for a lot of people, and many Kiwis opt to put up with bad (and painful) teeth rather than pay to visit a dentist.

Why is dental care so expensive?

In New Zealand, dental treatment isn’t subsidised by the Government once you’re over the age of 18 (unlike visits to the GP), which means patients must foot the entire bill for treatments. The cost of different dental treatments can vary markedly from one dentist to another. While it can pay to shop around, the table below gives an approximate idea of the average cost of dental treatments in major centres in New Zealand:

Check up with x-rays - $120-170
Fillings - $110-280
Extraction - $170-220
Root canal - $900-1200
Ceramic crown - $1200-1400
Single tooth implant -$2,500-3000

These numbers are indicative and prices vary between regions and dental practices.

Why are regular dentist check-ups so important?

Put simply, because avoiding the dentist can lead to much higher costs in the long-term. When it comes to dental visits, there are two types of people:

  1. Those who visit their dentist religiously, including once a year for a general check-up, and every six months for a dental hygiene appointment;
  2. And those who avoid going to any dentist at all costs. The former know that regular dental care is important, because if problems are picked up early it could save them thousands of dollars down the line. So, even if they feel the cost of each visit is a bit steep, they won’t miss an appointment.

The latter may avoid the dentist for a number of reasons – out of fear, because they don’t see the point of regular visits (“I’ve always had great teeth, so why bother?”) or because they’re simply not in a position to be able to cover the high cost of treatment. Skipping regular check-ups can often mean smaller problems go untreated, and may ultimately require more extensive, expensive (and unavoidable) treatment down the line – a simple filling may end up requiring a root canal, for example. So, a few dollars saved in the short-term could prove to be a costly decision in the future. Investing to catch problems early is the best way to go.

What are my options?

Health insurance that covers dental is one option that can help ease the cost of annual check-ups and six-monthly hygiene appointments.

Dental is usually classed under ‘everyday’ benefits for policies with nib health insurance and provide a percentage that you can claim back up to a certain limit. With nib’s Premium Everyday health insurance policy you can claim 80% back on a range of dental treatments up to your annual limit of $1000, including:

  • Examinations
  • Cleaning and scaling
  • Fillings
  • Extractions (including wisdom teeth)
  • Associated x-rays
  • Orthodontic treatment
  • Endodontic treatment

Please note a standard 12-month standdown period applies on all dental benefits.

Some dentists offer stand-alone annual dental payment plans that cover a basic range of treatments each year – including an annual check-up (examination and x-rays), two hygienist appointments, and a discount off additional treatments unlikely to include extractions, orthodontics or implants. Investing in health insurance or a dental plan, via regular, more affordable payments, could help to protect you against the shock of an unexpected and costly dental bill in the future.

Benefits of health insurance that covers dental

Visiting the dentist regularly for a check and clean is the best way to nip an issue in the bud before it gets out of hand. But if you do need extra treatment at any stage, it can be a relief to know you can claim back some of the costs when you have health insurance that covers dental. One of the benefits of having health insurance that covers dental is that it can offer a wide range of cover for things like general and major treatments, and orthodontic work. While you might be vigilant about taking care of your teeth and visiting the dentist, it’s no guarantee that you won’t need an expensive treatment down the track. So why not avoid the stress of paying for dental care in the future? Get a dental insurance quote from nib now.