Private dental care carries with it a stigma that it is expensive and only available to the well off. In this piece we want to explore how private dentistry has recently grown as more and more people realise the potential of what modern dental treatment can offer. The private dental market in the UK is worth around £3bn and growing rapidly, with a 20% increase in cosmetic work carried out in the last four years as Brits get more interested in having an attractive smile.
Why don’t I just see a cheaper NHS dentist?
NHS dental fees are fixed and usually cheaper than private dentistry, however with a limited number of dentists accepting new patients many patients are now turning to private care. In a recent survey carried out by Toothpick, only 10% of NHS practices could offer an appointment within the next 7 days, and only 30% had an appointment in the next month.
The other reason people are turning to private care is the quality of care available. Britain has very highly trained private dentists often operating at the cutting edge of their professions, with equipment to match, in great looking facilities. NHS dentistry covers only basic treatment aimed at stabilising your oral health and appointments are often very brief due to the restrictions on the services, leading many to seek more private alternatives. Highly advanced treatments, including cosmetic dental treatment such as teeth whitening and teeth straightening, are only available privately.
How can I afford private dental care?
Some treatments are expensive for patients by their very nature, due to their complexity and/or expensive materials being used. However most regular dental care is surprisingly affordable, easy to access and not dramatically higher than NHS fees for certain treatments. An example would be fillings, which come out around £50 on the NHS and £60 with some private dentists. Private dentists must remain competitive and therefore focus on delivering value for money to gain your business. Here are some examples of Toothpick dentists offering great value for money:
Camden Dental Centre – £25 for a checkup
Aesthetics Dental in Birmingham – £30 for a checkup
Stonehealth Clinic in central London – £40 for a checkup
Additional private dental care providers can be found here: toothpick.com/private.
Paying for private dental care
Another great advantage of using private care is the vast range of financing and discount options available. We have listed their main features below to help you make an informed decision about which one is right for you.
Offered by well-known brands such as Bupa and Axa, this type of insurance normally comes out around £20 per month. It can be taken as a benefit via your employer or be self-funded and paid by direct debit. The insurance normally covers 70-100% of your dental treatment, with some exclusions that will be specific to the provider.
You can also opt to have a medical loan that allows you to spread the cost of expensive bills, with an either low or interest free monthly repayments (ranges from 0-15% interest). This option does require loan approval using credit agencies.
Practice Dental Plans
Some dental practices offer their own dental plans. An example is Denplan, which normally comes out at £12-25 per month (usually paid by direct debit). It incentivises patients to come back for regular visits to the same dental practice – which in turn keeps dental bills down as problems are spotted before they get so serious they require extensive and expensive dental work. It does mean you are tied in to one practice however.
Dental Discount Plans
A dental discount plan is different from a dental insurance or dental plan, in that it gives you access to prenegotiated discounts at participating dentists for a monthly membership cost. Unlike with dental insurance there is no lead time before you can claim, which makes them very popular. Toothpick will be offering our own dental discount plan soon – keep your eyes and ears peeled!
Why don’t I just go abroad?
Dental tourism is big business, with thousands of Brits choosing to seek dental care abroad to save money – especially on expensive treatments such as veneers, implants and cosmetic work. This decision should not be taken lightly and plenty of research should be undertaken before committing to this option.
Is my private care guaranteed?
Yes. All treatments will carry a quality guarantee, meaning that if anything goes wrong after you’ve had the treatment you can go back to have it fixed. It’s always worth asking your dentist the duration of the guarantee before starting any dental work.
What if I am not happy with my private dentist?
All dental practices must have a complaints procedure in place in order to meet regulation requirements. The complaint should be addressed with the practice owner or manager in the first instance and if not resolved can be escalated to the dental complaints service, which is operated by the General Dental Council.
Private dental care in the UK is a well established, well regulated industry that offers very high quality dental services and often extremely good customer service. Toothpick works with and supports the NHS to provide affordable dental care where this is needed, but also highly recommend those who can to try out private dental care for more comprehensive and in depth dental care. Several financing options exist to help you spread the cost of treatment over several months, and to ensure you get the best deal possible on your dental care.