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What is dental insurance?

Dental insurance is something most people would never think about, but is it a good option to help you save money?

A photo of Grace Lynch, the author

By Grace Lynch

Published on: 27 April 2023

7 min read

What is dental insurance?

Recently, my mum needed emergency dental treatment and ended up having to pay almost £400 to go private. During the pandemic she missed several dentist appointments and was kicked out of her old NHS dental practice, and other practices in our area weren’t accepting new NHS patients.

With the state of the NHS at the minute, this sort of story is becoming very common in the UK. Dental care in particular is a huge issue, with many people (myself included) now having to opt for private care.

Dental insurance is something most people would never think about (I certainly hadn’t before now). With less NHS options available, private care is the only option for a lot of people. Dental insurance is an easy way to cover the higher cost of some (or all) of your treatment.

QUICK SUMMARY – What is dental insurance?

Looking after your teeth is important and is sadly becoming more and more expensive. Dental insurance (or health insurance with dental cover) can help you save a significant amount of money on your dental treatment.

  • Dental insurance will pay out for treatment in private or NHS dentists
  • You can buy health insurance with dental cover, if you want to protect all areas of your health
  • Many well known health insurance providers sell dental insurance policies like AXA, Bupa and WPA
  • Do some research and ask an insurance expert for advice if you’re not sure which provider or policy is your best option
  • Think about your own situation (if your teeth are generally healthy, dental insurance might not be worth it for you)

Dental insurance pays out to cover the cost of private dental treatments. The key thing to know here is that usually dental insurance works by giving you cash back.

It’s not like standard health insurance where you contact your provider for approval before being treated. You have your dental treatment then get in touch with you insurer to see if you can claim cash back for the treatment that you’ve had.

Here’s a video from Bupa that explains more about how their dental insurance policies work.

Bupa | What is dental insurance?

Does health insurance cover dental care?

There are some health insurance policies that will include dental cover (health and dental insurance). This is useful as it means you don’t need two separate policies and you’re also covered your healthcare needs too.

Annoyingly, a lot of them don’t include dental without you need to pay a little extra. You’ll need to have a think about whether it’s worth it to pay slightly more when you apply for health insurance to cover the cost of dental treatment too.

We’ve done a bit of digging, and here are the main providers in the UK that will sell health insurance with dental cover included (or available to add for an extra cost):

  • Aviva (included with enhanced health insurance policies)
  • Bupa (can be added for an extra cost)
  • Freedom Health (covers specific dental surgeries and you can add full dental cover)
  • Health-on-Line (offers a dental and optical benefit for an extra cost)
  • National Friendly (pays out for specified dental procedures with core cover)
  • Vitality (dental, optical and hearing cover is available as a policy add on)
  • WPA (allows you to add dental benefit for an extra cost)

Whether you need dental insurance depends on your own situation. If you’re registered with an NHS dentist and you’re happy with the care you’re receiving you don’t need to do anything and dental insurance might not be the right choice for you. The cost of NHS dental care is usually a lot cheaper than private care.

Private dental insurance is an extra cost every month so you’ll need to weigh up whether the cost of going to the dentist every now and then is worth the monthly expense.

What is the best dental insurance?

Most people looking for dental insurance tend to go straight for Bupa and it’s understandable why. Bupa is a big name in both health and dental insurance (and even sell health insurance with dental cover).

We’re not saying Bupa is the best, but they’re certainly the most well known. Bupa dental insurance:

  • Lets you claim for routine check ups, X-rays, scale and polish and more (up to £150 per year)
  • Pays out up to £700 a year the pricier treatments such as fillings crowns bridges or extractions
  • Gives you unlimited cover for oral cancer treatments (a great benefit that more insurers should include)

We’d say AXA dental insurance is also pretty good, as it can be affordable and offers some good benefits. AXA dental insurance:

  • Offers 2 levels of coverage you can choose the one that’s right for you (core cover will pay out for NHS treatment, premium cover will pay out for private or NHS treatment)
  • Includes worldwide accident cover for dental emergencies
  • Pays out up to £12,000 pounds for oral cancer treatment

Here’s the important things that you need to remember before you buy dental insurance.

  1. You pay the dentist first and then claim the money back
  2. You’ve normally got the option of getting treatment at an NHS or private clinic
  3. You’re more likely to get 100% of the cost back if you see an NHS dentist
  4. There will normally be limits to how much you can claim within a year
  5. You can’t claim straight away (you normally need to have the policy for a few months before you can submit a claim)
  6. If you want to save money you might be able to get a new paint discount added to a policy

This really varies depending on the insurance provider choosing the level of cover that you need. A more basic policy is going to be cheaper than one that provides a higher level of cover.

You can buy dental insurance from as little as £70 per year. This isn’t too bad considering that the cost of certain dental treatments could cost you 100s of £s. Most people in the UK will pay around £10 a month for dental insurance.

When you apply the provider will base how much you pay on factors like:

  • Your age
  • Dental health (history)
  • Gender
  • Level of cover needed
  • NHS or private dental cover

I think anyone who’s ever had to pay ridiculous amount of money for dental treatment would say dental insurance is at least worth considering. I and my family members have had experience of this in the last few years, having had to go private following the impact on NHS dentists during the COVID pandemic.

I’m not saying everyone needs dental insurance (I actually don’t have it myself). I can’t lie though, it would have been helpful to have the support when I’ve needed expensive treatment in the past.

Which providers sell dental insurance?

One issue that you might find is that you don’t know which providers are selling dental insurance. Your standard UK insurance providers such as LV= or Legal & General don’t sell these kinds of policies.

Our main tip would be to do a quick Google search to begin with and see if there are any policies that you like the look of. You should quickly get an idea for who’s selling what and the kind of features that you might be able to get.

If you’re completely stuck, it might be worth speaking to an insurance expert to find out more about your options.

Here’s a list of some of the main dental insurance providers in the UK

No one wants to spend more than they need to so here are our top tips to save money on dental insurance.

  1. Assess all your options carefully and compare quotes with multiple providers
  2. think about how much cover you need and how much you can afford to pay (some providers will offer basic plans which might be more than enough for what you need)
  3. Talk to an insurance expert for extra guidance and support when looking for an insurance policy

We’re not here just to reel off a load of facts we want to give you our opinions as well. It’s understandable to want guidance and other people’s thoughts on how insurance policies work and if they’re really offering good value for money.

The main things we have to say about dental insurance is:

  • If you can afford to pay for your own dental care it might not be worth it for you
  • It’s most useful when you need to claim for bigger dental expenses like a root canal
  • If you’ve already got a policy like health insurance, it’s worth seeing if you can add dental cover to this you don’t have to juggle 2 policies
  • Some people are entitled to free NHS dental care (e.g. children, pregnant women, people on certain benefits). It would be pointless getting dental insurance if this applies to you as it means you’re paying for something for no reason
  • If your teeth are pretty healthy and you’re only visiting every now and then for a check up you probably don’t need dental insurance

If you want to buy dental insurance a few things that you can do. You can apply to the insurance provider directly, but they won’t be able to advise you about policies that other insurers are selling. You’ll only get one side of the story and you might be able to get a deal somewhere else.

You can check price comparison sites, they should be able to give you a good idea of cost. Again they might not be able to give you detailed information about all the policies that are available.

The option we would usually suggest is to speak to an insurance expert. A broker will be able to talk through all your options and let you know which providers are offering the best prices for the cover that you need.

More health guides

Here are some more of our handy MPO guides about health and health related insurance policies.

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