Dental Costs for Pensioners – The Must-Read Guide

dental costs for pensioners dental aware feature image

If you’re an Australian pensioner, you may be concerned about the costs involved in visiting the dentist. But how can you lower the costs?

This is your ‘must-read guide’ for lowering your dental costs as a pensioner.

The costs of dental work will differ in Australia based on 4 main things.

  1. Location
  2. Type of dental clinic
  3. Whether or not you are eligible for public dental care
  4. Can you access a teaching clinic?

To help keep your costs down there are a few things to understand.

What treatment you require, your eligibility for public dental care and comparing costs will all make an impact in terms of price.

A visit to the dentist can be daunting for some pensioners, who may be tempted to forgo dental care in lieu of the price attached.

However, it may not cost as much as expected, with teaching clinics, Medicare and pensioner discounts available for those who are eligible.

Free Or Reduced “Public Dental” With A Pensioner Concession Card

If you hold certain government cards, such as a Pension Concession Card, you are eligible for public dental services through Medicare.

Not all services are covered and your eligibility will differ between states and territories.

Most dentists will accept Medicare, but it’s important to understand whether they will process your refund on the spot or you will need to outlay the cost and claim later.

Before booking your appointment, check with the clinic on payment options.

For dentists who accept Medicare on the spot, it works similarly to bulk billing at a medical centre.

You will be required to provide proof of eligibility at the appointment such as your pensioner or Medicare card.

medicare card image

Most Dentists will accept Medicare but it’s worth checking with them how they will process your refund

Your dental clinic should also confirm with Medicare the remaining balance for the year. You can also check this yourself by contacting Medicare.

For eligible pensioners, you may also be required to attend your State’s local oral health service.

They will undertake an assessment of your teeth or mouth and if they can’t carry out the treatment, they will issue a treatment voucher to attend a contracted clinic.

If you’re a student looking to save on dental costs, you can look for a teaching clinic in your area which will provide free or reduced rates.

Most states and territories in Australia will have Universities or TAFE who offer dental services in order to train their students on real people.

Using A Health Care Card For Reduced Dental Fees

For those without a pensioner’s card, you may also still be eligible for reduced or free dental work with a Health Care Card.

This works similarly to the pension cards in that you have a limit per year on what you can claim and you need to show the card at your appointment.

A Health Care Card is offered to people not qualified for a Pensioner Concession Card but is receiving any government assistance including carer payments, Newstart, widow alliance and the like.

Sample of an Australian Health Card Card

Reduced or free dental work with a Health Care Card – Sample source -Services Australia

This card can provide you with access to GP and dental services.

What you are entitled to differ between states and territories.

For example, Health Care Card holders are eligible for emergency and general dental treatment in New South Wales, but no cosmetic services.

This also includes trauma to the mouth, face or neck in an emergency department.

Public dental services are available in most local health districts across Australia such as in community health centres, hospitals and schools.

You can find your local clinics by visiting your state or territory’s department of health website.

Similarly to the Pensioner Concession Card, you can also visit some local dentists or access dental vouchers.

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card For Dental

Australians who are eligible for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card have access to reduced or free health services, including dental.

This card is for those not receiving an age pension. This also includes a larger refund for costs when you reach the Medicare Safety Net.

Using the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card in conjunction with your local senior’s cards will access you more services.

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card sample

What a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card looks like – Sample from Services Australia

It’s important to note that you need to show your Medicare to access Medicare services and your Commonwealth Seniors Health Card for other benefits such as assistance with utility bills and transport fares.

This particular card is mostly beneficial for cheaper medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, bulk-billed doctor visits.

Some dental clinics will take both Medicare and Commonwealth Seniors Health Cards.

Oftentimes, the eligibility for pension cards across local districts or federally are similar when it comes to dental services.

For example, accessing dental vouchers through the OHFFSS is available for both Pensioner Concession Card holders and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders.

Calling 000 Or Visiting Emergency For Urgent Dental Treatment

If you’re a pensioner and you have had a dental emergency, you can either call 000 or attend a public health clinic.

You should only call 000 if your symptoms are serious or your situation deteriorates before you can access dental care.

A Doctor performing facial surgery

A Doctor performing facial surgery

A hospital trip may be required for dental trauma or injury, swelling of the face/neck/mouth, bleeding that won’t stop from the mouth, difficulty in swallowing or opening jaw.

These are potential reasons to call an ambulance to take you to the emergency department.

For other dental trauma, such as a chipped tooth, that you can wait until an appointment, call your local public dental service.

Visiting a Teaching Clinic

If you’re ineligible for Medicare or public dental care but are a pensioner hoping to reduce dental costs, you can visit a teaching clinic.

Teaching clinics provide reduced dental care as your treatment is provided by a University student under the supervision of a qualified dental specialist.

This means that your appointment may take longer as it’s a teaching opportunity for the student to learn on a real mouth.

If you’re interested in heading to a teaching clinic, it’s important to understand exactly what treatments they offer.

Some clinics may focus more on denture services, whereas others may provide general dentistry such as fillings, extractions and the like.

The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne dental teaching clinic

The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne offers a teaching clinic – Source Facebook Dental Health Services Victoria

You will need to investigate exactly what services are offered before booking an appointment.

You will receive reduced dental (anywhere from 20% off and upwards) costs for attending a teaching clinic.

Although you may be looking to cut costs, it’s important to understand that as you age, dental needs may increase.

In 2020, 2.2% of Australia’s health burden included oral diseases, other figures also show higher numbers of older Australians requiring major dental work later in life.

Preventative dentistry can assist you in lowering the costs of dental care and emergency work throughout your life. You will also spread out the costs.

Compare Costs for Treatments To Get A Cheaper Quote

If you’re a pensioner who is interested in keeping your dental costs as low as possible, the best thing you can do is compare costs at different dental clinics.

Dental costs will differ between different locations, but price lists are usually openly available from most clinics.

You can also call and get a quote or go in and get a consultation (may cost unless for cosmetic procedures).

A consultation could be required to understand what work may need doing.

Usually, a consultation fee (except for most cosmetic consults) will need to be paid and then a treatment plan will be provided to you.

You can also choose to make several appointments over time to split up the costs.

The governing body for dentists in Australia is AHPRA.

The focus from AHPRA is on quality of care rather than regulating pricing.

So, unfortunately, costs will differ greatly around the country.

For example, if you live in the ACT or Tasmania, you will likely be exposed to the highest fees in the country.

If you require a general checkup and tooth clean, it can cost anywhere up to $335 in Australia.

Average Professional Dental Clean cost in QLD

In Queensland, you may pay between $218 to $326 for a Professional clean. The Average is $259.59.

What occurs in a general checkup can also differ, so it’s important to understand what each clinic will give you for the price.

If you wish to better understand the average costs for certain treatments in your state, you can visit Dental Aware’s Dental Cost Calculator.

This will give you an idea of whether or not your chosen clinic is at the higher or lower end of the average pricing.


If you’re a pensioner and you need or want to keep your dental costs down, there are several options available to you.

By accessing public dental care where eligible, visiting a teaching clinic or researching costs, you can be fully informed on your best options.

Be aware of what you are eligible for and what options are available to you before you book your appointments.

If you require dental work and are unable to access dental vouchers or government assistance, ensure you compare prices and split up the appointments where possible to split up the cost.

If you are eligible for government assistance such as Medicare, ensure you know your Medicare caps or access public dental clinics to see if you’re eligible for dental vouchers.

It’s important to understand the treatment you require, the complete cost, any rebates or assistance you are entitled to and what the payment options are.

You may also have other payment options at your local dental clinic.

You may find that your dental clinic offers different payment options such as interest-free instalments for major dental work with a minimum cost.

There are also options such as private health insurance and joining organisations such as Smile for set discounts.

As a Pensioner, how do you feel about Dental costs in Australia?

By Andrew Adams

Created at October 02, 2020, Updated at October 29, 2021


  • Gordana Kokanovic3 years ago

    I feel frustrated that Dental Health is not treated just like the rest of human body
    Furthermore Dentists (like most businesses health or otherwise) charge as much as they like as this country does not have any say in it.
    I always have Private health cover but due to its costs (increases 2x a year I cut out Dental and other extra due to such a small coverage
    So I just have Hospital cover with high excess to minimise monthly deduction
    Now we both are retired
    Despite that we cared for our teeth on regular basis
    I am looking for cheaper but worth while Dental clinic

    Recently I tried Dental 99 Clinic
    While I think this is pretty good alternative I am not sure how good are they really?

    I just feel it is time that Dental health and health in general be covered through Medicare and get rid of
    PRIVATE HEALTH insurance as they do not cover properly.

    HOW HARD is it to do that
    We had once many years ago proper cover if you private patient you give or present your book (now card) and there was no fragmented bits
    This is covered
    This is not
    Check before treatment etc. etc.

    It is basically confusing and insulting to humans intelligence by human s

    How does Government allow this
    Private cover doesn’t do anything to Medicare – it just doesn’t make any sense

    • Dental Aware Team3 years ago

      Thanks Gordana for your comment. We appreciate it and feel the frustration in your message. It would be wonderful if dental was included in Medicare. It’s great you are trying a new dental clinic option, most people stay and pay. How was your experience with Dental 99? Cost is definitely a factor for most people. Google search and reviews have improved a lot in the past few years so the ability to find a reasonable and fairly priced dentist is much easier than before. Try our dental cost calculator also, it gives you an average price on all treatments. Hope this helps!

    • Seren Belle2 years ago

      Labour gave us Medicare. And it was excellent but the LNP whenever they are in power chip away at eroding it but they would like to get rid of it all together and do to Australians what has happened to working and disadvantaged USA citizens. It’s disgraceful and unacceptable

      • Alfred Corvid2 years ago

        Weare in te same boat now retired but to politicise this against the LNP and think that the ALP is doing something wonderful with the taxpayers’ dollar is ignorance on a grand scale. Just look at how many admin staff there are in hospitals versus those at the coal face. QLD had the best medical treatment system and labor government after Labor Government erode it so you now you have incredible problem with ambulance ramping, unacceptably long waiting lists for elective surgery, a hopeless Premier and cabinet and NO improvement in Dental treatment for pensioners.

  • Kell bell3 years ago

    I’m very angry about dental costs in Australia, I am a survivor of domestic abuse and the ex partner has knocked out some teeth and broken others in my mouth, I escaped the horror but my self confidence is so bad because of my teeth so it’s like I’m still trapped there because that is all I see. Crowns, bridges and veneers are priced ridiculously and it’s a shame people like me have to suffer.

  • Rodney Bidmade3 years ago

    I am so depressed at the state of my teeth. I have huge cavities, black bits and all chipped and yellow. I am a disability pensioner and had 18 months of chemo 20 years ago. I couldn’t even brush them for many months. I need so much work now that I just want them all ripped out, I hate the way this country is. I can go and see a psychologist for free and all I do is cry about my disgusting teeth. NDIS won’t fix my teeth though. I’m going to try and pull them out myself. I will be a 41yo with no teeth, so much for the lucky country…

    • Dental Aware Team3 years ago

      Hi Rodney, Sorry for the delay in responding. If you have a pension card you may be able to access treatment through a dental hospital. Try calling your local health services and see if there is support this way. We appreciate your comment and hope this has helped in some small way. Take care.

  • Judith Giddings3 years ago

    I am also upset and frustrated regarding Australia’s dental health system. Private healthcare gives almost nothing back for dentistry. You have to wait for up to 2 years for dental school or public health services and in the meantime you suffer pain and problems with eating. Dental health has been linked to many other health problems including dementia.
    Why is there no solution for those on a pension?

    • Dental Aware Team3 years ago

      Hi Judith, Thanks for your comment. It is very frustrating and we get a lot of pensioners reaching out to us about this very issue. If you have a pensioner card you should be able to get dental treatment through a dental hospital. Try googling the closest dental hospital to me. Hope this helps!

  • Lee3 years ago

    Dental or dentures and optical for pensions are out of reach.
    Medicare doest assist us at all, but a heart surgery is free. Doesn’t make any sense.

    • Dental Aware Team3 years ago

      Hi Lee, Thanks for your comment. Try searching for a dental hospital near you. If you are a pensioner, treatment may be available. Take care and hope you are well.

  • Sangho Chon3 years ago

    Hi Dr,
    I am an age pensioner in Rosehill, Sydney. I am looking for dental services only just with Medicare. Where can I contact to get the service? Thanks

    • Dental Aware Team3 years ago

      Hi Sangho, Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, we don’t have that information to give. We would recommend calling your local dentists or searching online. Google is a great tool to narrow your search. Use the google ratings to find good dentists in your area. Hope this helps!

  • Mark3 years ago

    Have had great difficulty in affording Dental treatment due to cost. I am on disability pension , have health care card and am a holder of seniors card. Dental prices prevent oral care for many on low incomes.

  • Debra Magnussen3 years ago

    Hello I need new dentures. I have a concession card & a seniors card and am on JobSearch. What/where do I do/go for cheap dentures? I’m in QLD.

    • Dental Aware Team3 years ago

      Hi Debra, Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find cheap dentures so you will need to call around to your local dentists and price check. A good way to search for a good dentist is to use google ratings online. This helps narrow the search volume as you can read what others have said about these dentists. If you are a pensioner, you may be able to access a dental hospital. You will need to contact QLD health services to find the closest one to you. Hope this helps!

  • I am a 78 yo pensioner. I have need of 2 root canals with caps which will cost me about $5000.
    Having read through the websites relating to govt assistance, I am no wiser as to what help I can get for covering this cost

  • Jean Bailey3 years ago

    Since Tasmania has the highest dental charges in the country we travelled to West Australia for dental treatment. I was given a quote by the dentist of $1757.25 for dental treatment and ended with an actual payment of $2822 + $404 for a clean. Then I had a quote for an implant of $4000 and ended up paying $315 for X-ray, $624 to the firm in Sydney who manufactured the screw, insert was $2452 and for the tooth itself a quote of $3549 which has yet been inserted. So instead of a dental bill of $5757.25 I will end up paying in excess of $9000. It’s no wonder pensioners have dental problems and can’t afford decent dental care in this country.

  • Marc2 years ago

    Dental costs are too high in Australia

  • George Ogilvie2 years ago

    I am an aged pensioner who requires urgent treatment for some teeth removals and a full denture,,,I have called the my local dental hospital only to be told its not permanently manned and I have been placed on a wait list…friends have been on this list before and they have been up to 12 months before seeing a dentist…This is not acceptable and I have raised it with my local MP …what gives?

  • Janet C1 year ago

    I am a 73 year old woman living on a pension.
On 14 June 2023 after a bad night, I had serious pain from a broken tooth which was also causing the left hand side of my face to swell.

    At 7:30am I telephoned the Qld public dental service and was told the first available appointment was 27 June and when I asked about the pain I was having I was told to go to my doctor for a script for pain relief.

    I rang my doctor in Cooroy and was told I couldn’t get an appointment for that day.

    My daughter tried to get a chemist to supply stronger pain killers but the chemist refused because I am on blood pressure medication and needed a doctors script.

    I rang the dental service again and requested a voucher and was told there were none.
 With the incredible pain I was suffering I had no other option than to seek emergency treatments from a private dentist that cost me $405.00.

    When free dental service is available to me because I have a pension card, it is totally unfair and unreasonable to deny emergency dental treatment to me which has caused me to pay $405.00 which I cannot afford.

    To have to wait 13 DAYS to receive emergency treatment is totally unreasonable, ridiculous and uncaring.

    I have complained to the Queensland Ombudsman seeking reimbursement, because I was entitled to a voucher but the bureaucracy refused to provide one.

    • Dental Aware Team8 months ago

      I am so sorry to hear about your experience Janet. Please keep us updated about the situation. We hope you get the reimbursement.