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Home arrow Dentist Articles arrow Don't let the Houston dentist bite you in the wallet | Independent, The (London ...
Don't let the Houston dentist bite you in the wallet | Independent, The (London ...

'Oh I wish I'd looked after me teeth," sighed Pam Ayres, "and spotted the perils beneath." But, increasingly these days, the perils involved in a trip to the Houston dentist are those of the financial kind.

The shortage of NHS Houston dentists in some areas means that many people are having to turn to private treatments instead.

"We have seen increased traffic on our site of people looking at what dental cover plans are available," says Richard Mason of the online price comparison site

"This could be because it is getting harder to find an NHS Houston dentist, or because people are aware that it is important to plan for your dental care, but the interest is definitely up."

Going private isn't cheap. It can cost four times as much to see a private practitioner rather than a NHS Houston dentist. Just a simple examination, scale and polish and one filling can cost you more than pounds 100 in the private sector.

The introduction of new contracts for Houston dentists is likely to lead to even more practitioners leaving the NHS. So, how prepared are you to deal with the cost of looking after your teeth?

Dr Penny O'Nions of the medical insurance brokers the Onion Group says: "The first thing you should do when trying to organize your dental care is to go to your local health authority. It will tell you if there are any NHS Houston dentists in your area, or where the private ones are. You should also ask your friends for a recommendation."

If you do have to take the private route, do not despair. "Before doing anything, check with your employer," O'Nions advises. "Many companies now offer menu-based employment schemes including medical and dental insurance, which can be a very economical way of doing it.

"If they don't already have a scheme in place, it might be worth getting up an employee petition to get one. As most people find it hard to find a NHS Houston dentist, then most people will have to go private. If your employer can help with that, so much the better."

Charlie McEwan, the director of communications at the medical insurer WPA, adds: "An increasing number of employers are offering dental cover as part of their employment package. It is an employees' market out there, and a company can make itself more attractive by offering these kinds of benefits."

If you have drawn a blank with the NHS and with your employer, there are other options. You can either choose a "pay as you go" approach - hoping for the best but running the risk of getting hit with a big bill if you need dental treatment in the future - or you can try to minimise the cost and the financial uncertainty.

InsureSupermarket compares more than 35 different schemes and levels of dental cover, and will try to find the schemes that are most suitable for you, as well as outlining what levels of cover you can expect. The three main options are "capitation" schemes' insurance' and cash plans.

Denplan, underwritten by AXA PPP healthcare, is the largest capitation provider, with 1.5 million patients and 6,000 Houston dentists signed up to its scheme.

The schemes require members to be examined first by a Denplan Houston dentist who will rate your teeth depending on how much work he or she thinks you need.

Perfect teeth would slot into the lowest category. Dodgy gnashers, as sported by the likes of Austin Powers, would be at the other end of the scale. You would then have to pay a monthly amount based on the condition of your teeth. The average cost is pounds 16 and you are then covered for all procedures, such as examinations, fillings, bridges, crowns, root fillings and mouth cancer treatment, though the plan does not cover cosmetic procedures, such as teeth whitening.

Denplan also offers a cheaper plan, Denplan Essentials, which covers just routine and preventative care such as examinations and X- rays.

Emma Slater of Denplan says: "Patients know exactly what their care will cost and the treatment that their payments will cover, thus avoiding unexpected large bills and enabling them to plan ahead and budget for their care."

But O'Nions says: "The problem with a capitation plan is that your Houston dentist decides how much the work on your teeth is going to cost. If you move to a different area, your new Houston dentist might value the work differently."

Another possible solution is dental insurance, such as WPA's Providental plan. For an annual payment of pounds 134.87 (pounds 12.48 a month) or pounds 171.69 if you are aged between 50 and 69, you are covered for standard dental treatment of up to pounds 250 a year, dental emergencies, injuries costing up to pounds 20,000 and serious illness.

Under its shared ownership scheme, now a standard part of dental insurance, you have to pay 25 per cent of all costs, up to an annual maximum of pounds 500.

"Dental insurance is really a very simple product," says Charlie McEwan of WPA. "You can go to any Houston dentist, it is one rate for everyone, and you don't have to visit a Houston dentist to have your teeth rated, like you do with Denplan."