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Paying for dental services in Australia

How much do dental services cost in Australia? What are your payment and coverage options? Find out more about dental costs in Australia.

Visiting your dentist for regular check-ups is important to your oral health and overall well-being, but we understand that dental costs are a major consideration for many people. In 2013, almost one third of Australians (32%) said they avoided or delayed visiting a dentist because they were worried about the cost.1

Not visiting the dentist regularly for check-ups and preventive care could put you at greater risk of developing oral health problems. Sometimes, the treatment for those problems may cost more than routine check-ups. 

If you’re concerned about costs, finding the right dentist for you can help. A dentist can make tailored recommendations and walk you through your options, including if you may be eligible for government benefits. Some clinics even offer payment plans for certain services.

If you have private health insurance, you should consult your health fund about your coverage. This is often the best way to minimise your risk of unwanted surprises or unexpected costs. 

Understanding the costs of specific dental treatments

Unlike some medical services, there are no standard fees for dental services in Australia. Dental treatment costs can vary between clinics and depend on many factors, including:

  • your location in Australia
  • your individual clinical needs
  • the treatment option, materials and equipment used
  • the dentist's qualifications and experience
  • whether you need a specialist, such as an orthodontist or endodontist
  • whether you need additional services, such as x-rays or sedation

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) conducts annual surveys of dentist costs at clinics nationwide.2  But many dentists are reluctant to list cut-and-dried costs on their website or advertisements because treatment costs can vary so wildly based on people’s individual circumstances, making it hard to give a blanket estimate that’s accurate for everyone.

A dentist may only be able give you a breakdown of costs after an initial assessment. From there, they might be able to help you understand treatment costs within the context of Medicare dental coverage, dental insurance and payment plans so you can decide if a treatment is right for you.

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Are dental services covered by Medicare? Is public dental care available near me?

The federal government and state governments have explored several schemes and public systems to help people access dental care. 

If you’re eligible to receive Medicare payments, you may be able to have costs for certain services reimbursed through government dental schemes. Public dental services available for you or your family will depend on your state, along with your personal circumstances and clinical needs.

Different states offer different public services, with different eligibility requirements:

Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) 2019

The CDBS covers $1,000 of kids' dental services over two consecutive calendar years for eligible children and teenagers. To be eligible, families must:

  • have children aged between 2 and 17 years old
  • receive an eligible Medicare payment on at least one day of the calendar year

For the most up-to-date information and to find out more about eligibility and claims, click through to the Australian Government’s Department of Health information page.

What is “bulk billing”?

If a dentist or other healthcare practitioner bulk bills, this means they can process your claim for you and you won't have to pay anything. If your dentist doesn't bulk bill, you may have to cover a dental treatment cost on the day and claim it back from Medicare.

Do I need dental insurance? Does private health insurance include dental coverage?

Stand-alone dental insurance is not common in Australia, but many private health funds provide some type of dental coverage.

If you or your family are covered by health insurance, it's important to check what level of dental cover is included and what your annual limits are. You should also check that your dental clinic accepts your health fund and whether they offer electronic HICAPS payments to process claims on the day of your treatment.

What does health insurance cover?

Many private health insurance offer extras plan that cover dental services, but these can vary greatly, often depending on your health fund and your plan. Health insurance usually doesn’t cover optional services like cosmetic procedures.

Will I have out-of-pocket expenses? What does “no gap” mean?

You may have heard the terms “no gap” or “gap free.” These terms usually refer to a kind of out-of-pocket expense. 

Depending on your health insurance and the type of dental services you need, you may be covered for all your dental costs or only up to a certain amount. If you need to pay the difference, this is called a gap payment. If you’re able to avoid a gap, that means you likely won’t have any out-of-pocket expenses.

What is a preferred provider?

If you're a member of a health fund, choosing a dental clinic that's a preferred provider for your insurer can offer additional benefits. This could mean lower costs, higher rebates or other extras. 

Payment plans

You can ask your dentist if they can refer you to financial products or payment plans. Many dentists offer payment options such as monthly instalments or small loans (these are typically provided by a third party).

Some dental clinics offer payment plans to help you manage treatment costs. Reach out to your clinic, and ask about what payment plans they offer.

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1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW): Chrisopoulos S, Harford JE & Ellershaw A 2016. Oral health and dental care in Australia: key facts and figures 2015. Cat. no. DEN 229. Canberra: AIHW.

2 Australian Dental Association. Policy Statement 6.26 – Dental Fees [Online] 2017 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: www.ada.org.au

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