How much does the dentist cost?

TAMIKA SEETO
Finance Journalist · 17 September 2021
Is it time for your regular dental check-up, or do you have an issue you need a dentist to see to? Find out how much a trip to the dentist could cost you.

We take a look at the cost of some common dental treatments in Australia and explore the ways you could pay for it.

How much does dental treatment cost?

The Australian Dental Association’s (ADA) annual Dental Fees Survey found the average cost of a routine check-up and clean is $214. However, the cost can range from $158 to $304. That includes a periodic oral examination (item 012), scale and clean (item 114) and fluoride treatment (item 121). However, unlike doctors, dentists have no standard fees. That means the cost of seeing a dentist can vary significantly from dentist to dentist.

Here’s the cost of some other common dental treatments, according to the ADA survey of general practitioners (not specialists).

Costs of average dental treatment in Australia

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Check-up and clean

Treatment Average cost Range
Comprehensive oral exam (011) $66 $49–$91
Periodic oral exam (012) $58 $44–$83
X-ray – per film (022) $44 $32–$59
Calculus removal (scale and clean) (114) $120 $92–$168
Topical remineralising (fluoride treatment) (121) $36 $22–$53

Fillings

Treatment Average cost Range
Adhesive – 1 surface anterior (521) $159 $115–$225
Adhesive – 2 surface anterior (522) $192 $145–$275
Adhesive – 1 surface posterior (531) $169 $125–$230
Adhesive – 2 surface anterior (532) $210 $159–$295

Extractions

Treatment Average cost Range
Removal of tooth or parts thereof (311) $195 $139–$291

Root canals

Treatment Average cost Range
Chemo-mechanical preparation – 1 canal (415) $293 $200–$435
Chemo-mechanical preparation – additional canal (416) $142 $90–$214

Crowns and dentures

Treatment Average cost Range
Full crown – veneered – indirect (615) $1,600 $1,174–$2,000
Complete maxillary denture (711) $1,400 $950–$2,130

Source: Australian Dental Association Dental Fees Survey 2020.

Does Medicare cover dental?

Medicare only covers dental in limited circumstances. Medicare covers some dental treatments for eligible children through the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS). It also covers some essential dental services for eligible adults, generally those who have a Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card. Because of this, most dental costs will need to be paid for by the patient.

What dental costs does private health insurance cover?

If you have a health insurance policy that includes dental cover, your insurer can help cover some of your costs. Extras policies can include cover for general dental and major dental. General dental typically covers part of the cost of routine dental treatments, such as check-ups, scale and cleans, fillings and x-rays. Major dental generally covers more complex (and usually more expensive) dental procedures like root canals, crowns, dentures and treating gum disease. Waiting periods can apply.

Dental rebates

You can typically claim a percentage back of the cost of your treatment or a set benefit amount, subject to annual limits. That means that you may have to pay a gap payment, which is the difference between what your dentist charges and your health insurance rebate.

For example, research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that the average gap payment for a periodic oral exam was $17, removal of calculus was $33 and topical remineralising was $7 across Australia in 2017–18.

Some funds offer no-gap dental (or 100% back) on regular check-ups and other preventative services when you visit a dentist in the fund’s network. It’s worth checking the policy information to see how much you can claim and what type of dental work is and isn’t covered.

How else can I pay for dental costs?

Another option is paying for dental costs using your savings. You’ll typically need to go to the dentist for regular check-ups, so it’s important to budget for these. As well as this, it can be a good idea to have an emergency fund at hand to help cover any unexpected and potentially costly issues that may crop up.

Some dentists also offer dental payment plans, where you can pay for dental work in instalments. Others allow patients to pay for treatment with buy now pay later (BNPL) services like Afterpay and Zip Pay. Before entering into these kinds of agreements, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the fees and any interest that you may be charged. You may also be able to apply for a NILS loan to help towards the cost of some dental services, if you meet certain eligibility criteria.

Cover image source: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock.com


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This content was reviewed by Sub Editor Jacqueline Belesky and Finance and Lifestyle Editor Shay Waraker as part of our fact-checking process.


Tamika covers personal finance for Canstar, specialising in banking and general insurance. She joined the team after completing a Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Laws (Honours) at QUT. She has previously written for a range of news, music and arts publications.

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