The cost of dental care in the UK has become a topic of great concern for many families in recent years. Changes in the way National Health Service (NHS) dentists are funded resulted in many of them quitting the system to set up in private practice, leaving NHS dental places extremely hard to find in many areas.

This has left dental care hard enough for individuals to afford, but for families, with three or more members to look after, the cost of dental care has become a real worry. Fortunately, help is at hand through family dental insurance – but is it a good investment?

This article on dental health insurance for the family is written by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

Types of family dental insurance

There are three kinds of family dental insurance, ranging from comprehensive cover, which pays in full for any treatment, to cash plan schemes, which give you a cash contribution towards your bill.

Straightforward family dental insurance will pay all, or an agreed percentage, of your dental bill, in return for a regular monthly premium based on the age and health history of your family. In some cases, your insurer may deal direct with your dentist, so you don’t even have to find the money first and then claim it back. Unfortunately, because family dental insurance offers such comprehensive cover, the cost of the premium may be prohibitively high for many families, especially when you consider that NHS treatment for children is usually free.

Cutting the cost

One way of reducing the cost of family dental insurance is to see if you can take out a policy direct with your dentist. This kind of policy is based on an initial examination of your family’s teeth, and the price is based on the amount of work that your dentist expects you to need over the coming year. In many ways, these policies are more a way of spreading the cost of care, although you may also be covered for additional work should you require it. The disadvantage of these schemes is that many practices will insist that any required work is done before your family dental insurance policy starts.

Cash back schemes

Another way of reducing the cost of your family dental insurance is to include family members on any medical cash plan scheme that you have, such as HSA or Medicash. In this case, you will receive a cash benefit towards the cost of dental care, although this will be significantly less than you would receive from a dedicated family dental insurance policy.

The advantages

Dental health is important for all members of the family, whatever their age, but it is particularly important for children. Family dental insurance means you will never have to compromise on the quality of care you and your family receive because of the cost. With the right family dental insurance, you will always be able to access the treatment you need.

Family dental insurance also gives you a wider choice of dental practices, as you will not be restricted to NHS practices or budget surgeries. The more choice you and your family have, the more likely you are to find a dentist that you trust and feel comfortable with. This in turn means you are more likely to establish a routine of regular visits necessary to maintain excellent oral health.

The disadvantages

The biggest disadvantage of family dental insurance is that you will pay your regular monthly premium regardless of whether or not you need dental care. If your family have a good standard of brushing and flossing, and maintain a teeth friendly diet that avoids sweets and excessive fruit acids, then you may find that you are paying for care you don’t use.

Is it a good investment?

At the end of the day, you only get one set of adult teeth, and if you lose one or more of these, then they are gone for life. So anything that helps you maintain good oral health has to be a good investment.

However, whether or not family dental insurance is right for you will depend on your individual circumstances, and of course, the availability of NHS treatment in your area.

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