Dental Costs Without Insurance: What Can You Do?

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When researching dental costs without insurance, it can be confusing to understand whether insurance will save you money or not in the long run.

If you are not visiting the dentist often, or have no major dental needs, you may find it more affordable to pay out of pocket or join a group such as Smile for a set annual fee and locked-in discounts with approved dentists.

Many Australians choose to use private health insurance to pay for dental care, as you receive around half (or more) of the cost back at the time of your visit, with regular payments to your provider.

How Much More Are Dental Costs Without Insurance?

Costs at the dentist can vary, as there are no set costs that clinics have to follow in Australia for different services such as a general checkup, x-ray or cleaning.

In Australia, the average cost of a check-up at the dentist in 2019 was $215.

This included an exam, scale, clean and fluoride treatment.

However, the cheapest cost across Australia was $156 and the most expensive at $296.

If you need more than a yearly check-up, such as fillings, the average cost is between $156 and $206 dependent on location.

Average cost of filling a front tooth in NSW

The average cost of filling a front tooth in NSW – Dental Aware’s Dental Cost Calculator

A root canal has an average cost of $287 for one canal, a simple tooth extraction may cost $191 or a full crown has an average cost of $1,573.

Having health insurance may save you from finding a large sum of money in an emergency situation.

Ideally, you would consider your individual finances, the cost of annual health insurance and whether or not you can afford to pay for emergencies or major dental work without insurance.

How Does Dental Insurance Work To Save You Money?

Having some level of health insurance gives you the option to claim back a portion of your dental bills within your limits for general and major dental in a calendar year.

This can assist you with unplanned dental work as you have already paid your premiums and do not have to find 100% of the costs at a moment’s notice.

However, it’s important to understand which services are covered, your waiting periods and annual limits.

All of which can be found in your policy document.

Some more expensive services such as those involving surgery, may not be covered in extras or lower level of cover.

The rebate that each health fund pays toward dental also differs. Using a preferred dental provider for your fund can also assist in accessing the maximum rebate available.

Some health funds will give you 100% of your costs back for your yearly check-up as well as either free or decreased costs on x-rays.

It’s important to understand which funds provide the highest rebates on the services you may need before signing up.

Is It Cheaper To Pay Out Of Pocket For Dental Work?

Whether or not it’s cheaper to pay out of pocket for dental work will depend on your individual situation and what work you may need to be completed.

If you are paying for a health fund extras policy and only need a checkup a year, you may pay more than $600 in health fund fees to claim back a $150-$300 yearly checkups.

However, for some of the more expensive items listed above, $600 or so a year may save you half or more of your dental costs.

Say you needed four fillings (at an average of $166 per filling) and a root canal (average of $287), that would equate to a total bill of $951.

With a health fund that gives you a rebate of 60%, you would only need to pay around $380. This cost can also be split up into several visits.

That would save you around $350 with your $600-a-year extras cover.

Some Australians also choose to put money away in a separate account for unexpected dental bills rather than pay into a fund.

This is purely an individual choice based on your personal circumstances.

What Are Your Options With No Insurance? Dental Aware

What Are Your Options With No Insurance?

Health insurance doesn’t suit everyone and is an individual choice based on your personal and financial situation.

Australians are moving more and more toward putting money away in a separate or superannuation account for future dental costs.

This is due to some finding they’re not needing to claim more than a regular checkup and clean at the dentist.

It can also depend on the age of the person and whether they feel they will need long-term dental care.

This is also dependent on their ability to afford to pay their regular checkup out of pocket.

In March 2020, 9,888 Australians aged 25 to 29 dropped general health insurance cover, and 13,894 total Australians ditched their cover.

Aside from putting the money away in an account or finding it at the moment, you can also join organisations such as Smile.

This is a form of dental cover that has no waiting fees, limits or exclusions with an annual fee of less than $100.

This system works for those wanting reduced fees rather than a rebate.

However, they must see one of Smile’s approved dentists to be eligible. The minimum saving for this cover is 15% and a maximum of 40%.

Choosing such a cover is based on your personal situation.

Some health funds are also members of Smile which can save you the initial discount, plus a rebate on top of that price.

There are also other offers around Australia, such as 99 Dental.

They provide fixed-price dental services in Sydney at $99 and are also accredited with some health funds.

Can You Buy Insurance Just Before Visiting Dentist?

Unfortunately, you usually cannot purchase health insurance and then immediately visit a dentist, as most health funds will have waiting periods.

This is often two to six months or even more dependent on whether it’s general or major dental.

Health funds do have special deals throughout the year, where they will waive their waiting periods if you sign up with them immediately.

It’s important to look out for these deals and make sure that the waiting period suits your needs at the time.

How Much Will You Pay In A Lifetime Without Insurance

How much you will pay over your lifetime on dental costs is individual and based on many factors from genetics to your diet and general dental hygiene regime.

Your cost is also dependent on where you live and which dentist you choose to visit.

Statistics do show that most Australians will need more than basic dental checkups throughout their lifetime.

They also show that many will require major dental at some stage.

Australian statistics show that in 2020, the largest component of ancillary benefits paid by Australians was dental services at $231 per insured person.

In 2011, oral diseases equated to 2.2% of the total country’s health burden and 4.4% of all non-fatal burdens.

The Australian Dental Association made a pre-budget submission that quoted:

“42% of all children aged between 5 and 10 have experienced tooth decay in their baby teeth; 25% of children aged between 6 and 14 have suffered decay in their permanent teeth and 43% have moderate levels of plaque on their teeth.”

It has also been noted that over 61% of those over 75 in Australia have moderate or severe periodontal disease.

55% of those in the same age group have less than 21 original adult teeth left.

Although this does not provide a figure of what you will spend in your lifetime, you can see that most Australians will require more than a checkup and clean over the years.

Regular dental care can assist in lowering the costs of emergency work and spreading out the cost of dental services throughout your life.


With all of the options available to Australians, your decision on whether or not to have health insurance boils down to your individual circumstance.

To make a decision that suits you, take into account these 4 points:

  • Your financial situation
  • How regularly you visit the dentist
  • How regularly you care for your dental hygiene
  • Whether or not an emergency trip or a major dental service would greatly impact your quality of life and finances.

Do you have dental insurance?

Andrew Adams

By Andrew Adams

Created at November 04, 2020, Updated at September 28, 2021


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    Narelle Knowles5 months ago

    How much is a full set of dentures without health insurance