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The Cost of Dental Care

Katie Douglass

Katie Douglass

June 7, 20215 minute read
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A trip to the dentist can be expensive, especially in Australia. Generally, Medicare doesn’t cover most dental services, with many Aussies using private health insurance to cover the costs.


Did you know?

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), around 4 in 10 (39%) of Aussies aged 15 years and over avoided or delayed visiting a dentist due to the cost. Plus, a quarter of them stated they would find it difficult to pay a $200 dental bill.

Whether you’re weighing up if private health insurance is worth it or simply want to know how much a dental bill might be, we give a rundown of the cost of dental care below.

What is dental care?

Dental care is important for the maintenance of your teeth, gums, mouth, and overall health. It can help prevent cavities, gum disease (gingivitis), tooth loss, periodontitis, and other conditions. While regular tooth brushing and flossing can reduce the likelihood of these conditions, a regular visit to the dentist or oral health professional is also important. Better Health Channel recommends both children and adults visit the dentist at least once every six months.

How much does a trip to the dentist cost?

As prices differ from dentist to dentist, it can be hard to give an exact answer to how much your bill might be. However, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) does an annual survey of dental fees to give an idea of the average cost of dental procedures in Australia.

Pulled from the 2019 ADA survey, here are the average dental fees charged for common dental procedures in Australia:


Procedure (Dental Item Numbers) Average Cost
Check-Up Comprehensive Oral Exam (011) $65
Periodic Oral Exam (012) $58
X-Ray (022) $44

(per exposure)

Scale and Clean (114) $120
Fluoride Treatment (121) $37
Fissure Sealing (161) $59

(per tooth)

Simple (non-surgical) tooth extraction (311) $191
Endodontics Prep of root canal (chemo-mech) – one canal (415) $287
Prep of root canal (chemo-mech) – add canal/same tooth (416) $142
Restorative Filling – anterior tooth – 1 surface (521) $156
Filling – anterior tooth – 2 surfaces (522) $187
Filling – posterior tooth – 1 surface (531) $166
Filling – posterior tooth – 2 surfaces (532) $206
Prosthodontics Full crown (veneered) – indirect (615) $1,573
Denture (complete maxillary) (711) $1,350

Why do prices vary so much between dentists?

As mentioned earlier, dental costs can differ greatly between dentists. This is because, unlike other medical services covered by Medicare, dental fees aren’t standardised. As a result, dentists can charge whatever they like.

Generally, there are a range of factors that influence dental prices. These can include location, overheads, type of method, materials needed, treatment plan, and level of difficulty of a procedure. For instance, there are different ways to do a dental filling and various materials that can be used as a filling.

Does Medicare cover dental work?

Unlike other types of health services, Medicare does not cover most dental services. However, the Australian Government pays for some dental services through the Child Dental Benefits Schedule and public dental care. Let’s give a rundown of each below:

Child Dental Benefits Schedule

Under the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, the Australian Government pays up to $1,000 over two calendar years for children aged two to 17 for basic dental care. These can include dental check-ups, examinations, x-rays, fillings, root canals, extractions, and sealings. However, the scheme is only available to children whose parent, carer, or guardian are receiving the Family Tax Benefit Part A or certain government payments. If you want to find out if your child is eligible, you can visit the Australian Government Department of Human Services website.

Public dental care

While the eligibility requirements and treatment options can depend on which state or territory you live in, there are free dental services available for both children and adults. Generally, it is available for those who have a Health Care Card, Pension Concession Card, or Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. Keep in mind that public dental services usually come with long waiting lists.

Does private health insurance cover dental care?

If you need treatment for your pearly whites, most extras policies include cover for a range of dental services. Depending on the level of extras cover you have, dental services are typically split into two categories: general (or routine) dental and major dental.

General dental cover can include examinations, cleaning, x-rays, fluoride treatment, extractions, and fillings. On the other hand, major dental can include crowns, bridgework, veneers, implants, and dentures. It’s important to know that if major dental is included in your extras policy, the premiums are likely to be more expensive.

There are a few things to keep in mind when considering dental insurance, including the fact that dental rebates tend to vary between funds and policies within funds. In addition, some categories come with annual limits or even, in some cases, a lifetime limit (e.g. orthodontic work).

Some health funds have what’s called ‘preferred providers’. This means that if you go to one of your health insurer’s preferred providers, you’ll get lower fees and higher rebates. However, it also means you can be limited by choice when it comes to choosing a dentist.

How to save money at the dentist

It can be tempting to put off going to the dentist if you’re worried about the cost. However, a healthy mouth is important for maintaining not just your oral health but your overall health. To help you save money at the dentist, we’ve put together a few handy tips.

Look after your teeth

There are everyday actions you can take to avoid dental health problems including:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day (use toothpaste that has fluoride);
  • Flossing once a day as it helps break up plaque between your teeth and under your gums;
  • Limiting sugary food and drinks;
  • Visiting the dentist at least once a year.

Build an emergency fund

It might be worth setting up a savings account to be prepared for any unexpected dental bills. Putting money aside on a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly basis is a handy way to save money at the dentist and avoid putting off necessary dental treatment.

Compare quotes

If your dentist recommends a treatment plan, it’s probably worth ringing around for quotes. You can also compare the prices given against the average fees in the ADA survey. If you’re going to compare prices, make sure to ask for the specific dental item numbers of the work your dentist has suggested.

Also, you might like to ask if your dental practice offers payment plans which allow you to pay back in instalments instead of a lump sum payment. Before you agree to a payment plan, it is best to read through the terms and conditions as some payment plans come with additional fees.

Dental loans

One way that could make your visit at the dentist less painful is a dental loan. This type of personal loan can be taken out to help pay for the full cost of your treatment or procedure, or to cover the out-of-pocket expenses after private health insurance.

Copyright © www.jacarandafinance.com.au Jacaranda Finance Pty Ltd ® ABN 53 162 078 195 Australian Credit Licence 456 404, Pawnbroking License Number 4221738. The information on this web-page is general information and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Information provided on this website is general in nature and does not constitute financial advice.

Katie Douglass
Katie Douglass

Written by Katie Douglass

Katie Douglass is the Senior Communications Manager at Jacaranda Finance. In recent years, Katie’s work has appeared in publications such as Marie Claire, InStyle, Oiyo, and THE ICONIC. She has a Bachelor of Creative Industries in Fashion Communication & Journalism from the Queensland University of Technology.

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