Weathering the interest rate storm: How to save money at the dentist

Dr Aran Moorthy

This article was written by Australian dental surgeon Dr Aran Moorthy, BDS. Dr Moorthy has a Bachelor of Dental Surgery from the University of Adelaide. You can read more about Dr Moorthy here >

Australian dollars

Is your credit card feeling fatigued? Do you feel sick at the thought of spending more money? You’re not alone. With interest rates increasing 13 times over 15 months since May ‘22, almost everyone is feeling the pinch.

It’s tough out there, but not everything is expensive and there are some ways to save cash. So when it comes to saving money on dental, we thought we’d share a few thoughts and tips with you.

This article covers how you can avoid large dental bills. We’ll give you tips on how to save, introduce you to Fair Health Care Alliance (they can help you find the best dental health insurance for your needs without spending a fortune) and we’ll explain the deal with Medicare and dental.

How to keep your dental costs low

  • Look after your teeth – We cannot emphasise enough the importance of brushing regularly, avoiding sugar and having regular scale, clean and exams. At Mills Road Dental, we often have dental specials for this service to help keep the cost down.
  • Shop around – Dental fees can significantly vary as there are no set amounts for specific treatments. (Be wary of expensive suburbs.)
  • Get private health insurance if you can – We understand insurance can be expensive. Still, we recommend health insurance to help take the sting out of any nasty major dental expenses that you may incur.
  • Spread your dental treatment over two years (if insured) – Suppose you need two dental implants. If your health insurance will only cover you for one, plan to have the first implants placed at the end of one calendar year, then the other in the new calendar year. Then you will be covered for both.
  • Look out for discounts – Many dental clinics offer dental discounts, so shop around.
  • See if you qualify for government rebates — If you have a health care card or disability pension, you may be entitled to government rebates for certain general dental services.
  • Contact dental schools – Dental universities and schools often offer discounted services performed by the students (closely supervised by their tutors).
  • Be honest with your dentist – Don’t be shy about your finances. If your dentist suggests a dental service is too expensive, let them know. They may recommend a cheaper alternative.

Does Medicare cover dental?

Essentially, no, most dental treatment in Australia is not covered by Medicare. Why not? The short answer is that it would be way too expensive and massively burden our budget. Facing this dilemma (some five decades ago), the government decided that private health insurance funds would be the best option to help service us Aussies.

But, our government does provide dental benefits for some. For example, if your family receives government benefits, your children can get Medicare bulk-billed dental services through the CDBS (more on that later).

Rules and government funding for dental vary in each state, but typically, the following governance services and benefits are available:

  • Indigenous healthcare services such as Derbarl Yerrigan Dental Health
  • Healthcare card and pensioner concession card holders can receive dental care at a public dental clinic.
  • The cleft lip and cleft palate scheme offers Medicare benefits for some dentistry treatments and surgeries for eligible people under 28 years.
BOTTOM LINE: Government funding helps a bit, but for many of us, it’s just not enough. So, let’s look at what you can do.

Fair Health Care Alliance: helping you choose the right dental cover

Going without private health insurance cover is risky if you want to keep your teeth. But we understand that insurance is too expensive for many. So, if you can’t afford it, our best advice is to brush your teeth twice daily, floss, avoid sugar — and have an annual dental checkup. It may cost you a couple of hundred dollars. Still, it may also prevent expensive dental treatments such as root canal treatment or dental implants.

So, which health insurance is right for you?

Every individual is different, so it depends. This is why the Fair Health Care Alliance (FHCA) is so good. Even the Australian Dental Association recommends you use them. A health insurance comparison service, they’re here to help you find a health fund that pays more.

Fair Health Care Alliance can help you:

  • Compare health funds that pay their extras rebates at any healthcare provider in Australia (not just select providers favoured by the health insurance fund)
  • Help you choose a fund that best suits your personal needs

Best of all, the Fair Health Care Alliance truly puts the ‘fair’ back into healthcare. Ever noticed that some healthcare providers only generously pay if you visit their preferred providers? FHCA can help you avoid that trap.

Here’s what they have to say:

“We’re in the business of helping Australians compare private health insurance policies with health funds that generally pay fairly regardless of which health practice or professional is attended.”

 – Fair Health Care Alliance

Want more information? Our sister site, Oxford Street Dental, has an article on how Fair Health Care Alliance can help you.

Read it here.

Like to save money and your exam, scale & clean?

Pay nothing with health insurance!

Get an examination, clean, scale, x-rays & fluoride (value $350) with NO out-of pocket expense if you have insurance. No insurance? Pay just $199.00

Book now: 9398 3930

Child Dental Benefit Service (CDBS)

The CDBS is the only service you could call a ‘Medicare dental service’. It’s typically available to children up to 17, with parents or carers receiving government assistance like the Family Tax Benefit Part A.  However, recipients of other government benefits may also qualify, such as ABSTUDY and various carer payments and disability support pensions.

What does the CDBS cover?

The Australian government covers up to $1052 for essential dental services under CDBS over two calendar years. Services include:

Read more about CDBS here >

Did you know?

If you have a Health Care or Pensioner Concession card, you are eligible for subsidised public dental care through Dental Health Services.

For more info call (08) 9313 0555.

How dental care is covered by health insurance

Did you know most dental care in Australia is covered by private health insurance? Occasionally, it is covered by hospital cover. Although usually, dental insurance is a form of extras cover—just like physio or optical.

Health insurance only pays for some of the expenses, though. Sometimes, the individual is left paying a handsome fee.

Then, there’s the issue of ‘preferred providers’. Some health insurance funds have an arrangement with various dental clinics (preferred providers), encouraging you to use these clinics to reap the total advertised rebate.

At Mills Road Dental, we are a preferred provider with nib and Westfund. While this is great for those nearby, it may not work for everyone. We recommend you check with any health fund you’re considering to see what arrangements they have and if they are suitable to you.  Aran…please comment here

What do dental extras cover?

Dental cover is split into two categories: general dental and major dental. And each category has an annual payout limit that varies according to the insurance provider and your policy.

  • General dental includes scale and cleans, checkups, x-rays and fillings.
  • Major dental includes tooth extraction, crowns and bridges, root canal, dentures and dental implants.

Which are the best health insurance funds for dental extras?

The main players offering dental extras in the competitive world of Australian dental insurance include:

Contact Mills Road Dental

Talk to us about your teeth today!

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