What Is Covered In A Regular Dental Check-Up?
When visiting the dentist, it’s important to understand what services you will receive for the cost of a regular dental check-up.
Dental costs can differ between location and clinic, and you can also claim back a portion of the whole cost if you have access to Medicare, Government assistance or private health insurance.
You can easily access a price list from your clinic and find out what is covered in a regular check-up by asking directly or visiting their website.
How Much Are You Looking At Paying For A Dental Check-Up?
With COVID-19 restrictions easing in most states and territories, people are starting to think more about visiting the dentist again.
Regular dental check-ups are important for oral health, ensuring that any arising issues are caught early. This can also save you money in the long run.
A general check-up and tooth clean is usually what you will visit the dentist as your regular visit.
Most dentists will charge you an appointment fee, regardless of what you are visiting for.
The only time most dentists may offer a free consultation is for cosmetic work. This can cost anywhere up to $335 in Australia – with large differences in costs.
Smile.com.au tells us that a checkup and clean in Queensland may cost an average of $218-$326, whereas the same service in Northern Territory can cost $338-$3362.
The difference in cost is due to there currently being no regulations on pricing within Australia.
For example, the average cost of a checkup across Australian states and territories can differ by more than a hundred dollars.
The cheapest cost across Australia was $156 and the most expensive at $296.
Those with private health cover may receive one free check-up and clean a year as part of their cover.
This is the same for children eligible to attend a mobile or school dental clinic.
University students may be able to access a discount at clinics near schools.
Those eligible for public dental care may also receive free or reduced check-ups.
A regular check-up will typically include an oral exam to check for any cavities, cracks or obvious dental concerns, scale, clean and fluoride treatment.
The dentist may also ask for your dental history, check on prior concerns or work completed, or keep an eye on existing cavities, cracks and the like.
Alternatively, or in conjunction with the above, you can access a dental calculator such as dentalaware.com.au which will show you the average prices for your state or territory for each treatment.
This will allow you to see whether your quote is at the lower or higher end of the area’s average cost.
On top of this, the dentist may suggest an x-ray to look more closely at potential issues and this is an additional cost.
Do You Need To Have X-Rays Taken At A Dental Check-Up?
An x-ray is not always necessary at a regular dental check-up, however, the dentist may suggest one if they suspect a dental issue such as a crack.
They may also suggest an x-ray if there is a history of dental concerns or they want to make sure they see any potential cavities development.
Having an x-ray at your check-up also assists the dentist in checking your jaw alignment, decay between teeth and other issues such as impacted teeth, cysts on the root or abscesses.
According to Dental Aware’s Dental Cost Calculator, it confirms that the average x-ray cost is $42.58 in NSW, $42.57 in QLD and $45.01 in Victoria per film taken.
Other issues that an x-ray can pick up is:
- Issues with existing work such as root canals, cavities, crowns, bridges
- Gum disease
- Traumatic injuries such as tooth or bone fractures
- The growth of unformed or badly angled teeth
- Presence of wisdom teeth not yet descended.
Some dental clinics may add x-rays to a package price for new clients or as part of their regular dental check-up pricing.
You should ask what’s included for each individual clinic when booking your appointment.
After taking the x-ray, your dentist will let you know of any concerns and discuss treatment options if required that are preventive or actions such as a filling if required.
It’s important to know that x-rays are safe for both adults and children. They are taken safely on the inside and outside of the amount but the radiation is extremely low.
You can also have an x-ray taken at the dentist if you’re pregnant.
The type of x-ray you require will depend on what the dentist is assessing.
How Often Should You Have A Dental Check-Up?
Dentists are divided on how often you require a check-up – some saying six months and others annually.
If you have ongoing oral issues or a tooth they are keeping an eye on, you may need to go more regularly.
It’s important to have your teeth regularly cleaned by a dentist as well, as they remove any plaque on your teeth.
Plaque is bacteria and if it’s not removed completely, it can harden and become tartar.
Brushing, flossing and using mouthwash will not remove tartar.
If you leave your teeth uncleaned professionally, you can end up with oral diseases.
The dentist also checks your gum which is important, as they will check the spaces between your teeth and gums.
Gum disease can be identified through this process as spaces can become deeper with disease.
Most dentists will also look at your tongue, face, head, neck and throat to look for any troubling signs.
This is important as dentists can notice symptoms of oral disease or cancer that you wouldn’t notice yourself.
Regular dental visits are important for teeth and gum health, assessing any current or new issues, preventative dental work and any larger issues that need addressing.
Your dentist is the best guide for you to know how often to visit.
Consequences of not having a regular check-up can cost you more money in the long term or bigger oral health concerns.
They can include:
- Tooth decay which can lead to expensive tooth restorations such as root canals, crowns and also causes pain and bad breath
- Gum disease such as periodontal disease or gingivitis which can lead to further health issues
- Stains and an unattractive smile
- Serious medical problems – a dentist can see signs of oral cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, hypertension and heart disease.
Many of these concerns can be addressed earlier by visiting a dentist – this can save you serious health issues and also money on expensive treatments.
For children, you can also ensure that malformed or badly growing teeth are addressed before they cause alignment issues and lead to orthodontics.
Tips when Visiting a New Dentist For the First Time
When we change to a new dentist there are some important questions that need to be answered.
This information is crucial for your chosen dentist to understand your past and provide you will quality care during your visit.
If you haven’t seen your dentist for 2 years or more this will likely apply to you as well.
Below are some questions and information that will need to be ascertained before any treatment can be completed:
Medical History – Past and present medical history – All medications are taken into account and past medication history as this can all affect the health of the mouth.
Dental History – Past and present drug (medication) history – record all relevant medications
Concerns – RFA “Reason for attendance”
Other complaints – Any other presenting problems?
Extra-oral findings – General observations, TMJ (Temporo Mandibular Joint), muscles of mastication, lips
Intra-oral findings – cheeks, tongue, palate, gingiva, oral cancer check
Oral Cancer check – OCC – recording all observations
Full charting – dental findings, Bite classification, erosion, abrasion, attrition.
Gum form and health – Any inflammation and abnormalities
Diet history and sugar consumption – Smoking or recreational habits which may require the need for a mouth guard.
Sleep patterns and airway evaluation.
Are Children And Adult Check-Ups Equally Spaced Out?
Adult and children should see the dentist just as regularly unless there are concerns that a dentist needs to keep an eye on.
For children, this could include cavities, malformed or badly angled teeth, undescended teeth and the like.
Children shouldn’t miss their dentist visits, as their teeth and mouths are still developing and changing.
Children should start having dental checks from the age of two.
Regular check-ups are important as the dentist will notice any issues early on.
Issues for children are often similar for adults and children, including early signs of tooth decay.
However, children can also have issues with their adult teeth as they are growing in, such as bad angle, not pushing the baby tooth out and causing alignment issues which can lead to future orthodontics.
Unfortunately, Health Direct explains that tooth decay in children is on the rise in Australia, with an average of one and a half-decayed, filled or missing baby teeth for children aged 5 to 10.
It’s important to start looking after your child’s teeth at home as soon as they start teething.
Once a child’s first tooth appears, or after the age of two, you should start regular dental check-ups.
If you notice issues such as pus, red, bleeding or swollen gums, loose teeth or mouth pain, take your child to the dentist immediately.
For children, a dentist will also usually look at how their teeth are coming in if there are issues such as overcrowding or how teeth are growing.
You may receive a free consultation if you are looking to have cosmetic work such as teeth whitening, veneers or orthodontics done.
Children are usually eligible for dental vans at school who perform free check-ups and cleans once a year, and some are eligible for the Child Dental Benefits Schedule through Medicare.
You should check your eligibility before booking an appointment.
Those eligible include children aged two to 17 years of age whose parent are eligible for Medicare.
Their parents must be receiving an eligible Centrelink payment such as Tax Benefit A or B.
Only certain services are covered, which are those seen as basic dental services. Orthodontic, cosmetic or in-hospital treatment is not covered under the schedule.
There is also a two-year cap on funding.
Is A Professional Teeth Clean The Same As A “Check-Up”?
Typically, there are two parts to a regular dental visit which include a check-up or examination, followed by cleaning.
Most clinics will package both services together, however, some may offer a simple clean for those wanting more regular cleaning.
The difference between the two is that one is a thorough check of your oral health, teeth and gums.
The dentist will also look at any previous work that was done, any issues they are keeping an eye on and suggest further investigation such as x-rays if required.
A clean is simply cleaning of the teeth including a scale and polish.
This is to remove stains, built-up plaque and tartar to prevent further issues caused by tartar, such as decay or oral disease.
The dentist may also add fluoride to your clean to strengthen the enamel of your teeth.
Another difference between the two or a package is the time spent in the dentist’s chair.
It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for a full check-up and clean, however, a clean will only take around 20-30 minutes.
As mentioned above, the cost is also different between a check-up and clean or a clean on its own.
This can differ by $100 in some cases, particularly if your check-up requires x-rays.
The cheapest dental check-up and clean was noted as $156 in Australia, with the most expensive at $296.
A clean on its own can be anywhere from $75 to $200.
Again, you may be eligible for a free yearly clean and check-up through your private health provider or Medicare access.
With only one set of teeth per adult lifetime, it’s important to take care of yours.
Poor oral health doesn’t simply impact your teeth, it can also lead to future health issues including gum disease.
It’s important to visit your dentist regularly for a clean and check-up.
In between appointments, you should also keep an eye on any changes in your bite or alignment, the feeling of your teeth or any abnormal stains that don’t disappear with regular cleaning.
It’s also important to regularly brush your teeth with a good soft toothbrush and floss. Your dentist can advise on the best ongoing oral care.
If you require any further treatment, your dentist will provide you with a treatment plan and quote after your regular check-up.
If you need to be referred to a specialist for orthodontics, endodontics or periodontists, they will also let you know.
Preventative care is important for future cost and oral health.
Your dentist is best placed to advise you on the regularity of your check-ups, cleans and whether or not you need to look for anything specific in-between visits.
Are you due for a checkup?
By Dr Veronica Roller
Created at October 14, 2020, Updated at September 30, 2021