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Tooth ache time bomb: New data reveals 2 in 3 Aussies delay dental visits due to costs

By Hannah Twiggs | 7 Feb 2019
5 min read

February 2019

Dentists recommend we have dental check-ups every six-to-12 months, however concerning new research has revealed that two in five Australians (39 per cent) did not visit a dentist at all last year, and 61 per cent delay dental treatments due to their expense.

Leading financial comparison service comparethemarket.com.au[1] commissioned a survey of an independent, nationally representative panel of 1087 Australians to gauge whether we are delaying necessary dental check-ups and procedures, and why.

Worryingly, a fifth (21 per cent) of respondents admitted they hadn’t been to the dentist for at least two years, and 15 per cent said that it had been more than three years since they had their teeth checked.

On average, a routine dental exam, clean and fluoride treatment costs $66, with prices ranging from $51-92 across Australia[2]. Orthodontic treatment tends to be pricier, ranging from anywhere between $5,000-9,000[3].

In addition to the two-thirds (61 per cent) of Aussies who would delay dental treatment due to costs, 16 per cent would delay any procedure they needed that cost more than $150.

When asked which dental treatments people would put off for either themselves or their child due to the expense, one in three (32 per cent) said they would avoid routine dental check-ups. On top of this, 30 per cent would put off getting caps and crowns, 29 per cent would delay getting veneers and 28 per cent would avoid necessary orthodontic treatment.

If respondents were faced with significant dental bills, half (50 per cent) said they would draw on their savings, 39 per cent would use a credit card and 20 per cent would see if they could go on a payment plan. Interestingly, an equal 6 per cent would either borrow money from friends or family, increase their credit card limit, or draw on their superannuation to make payments.

Dental treatment of any kind is not often covered by Medicare, and is usually paid when your procedure is finished. The Australian Dental Association’s Dental Fee Survey[4] found the average cost for a filling is $175, that a root canal averages out to $278, and a wisdom tooth extraction can cost anywhere between $500-3,000[5]. Other dental procedures range from $38 for fluoride treatment to $1558 for a full crown (veneered).

With health insurance premiums set to rise in April, it’s crucial to have the right level of cover and protect your hip-pocket from any unexpected expenses. Compare the Market spokesperson, Jennifer Williams says it’s vital for Australians to shop around and get the best health cover to suit their dental and general needs.

“The majority of Aussies are delaying dental procedures because the immediate financial hit is too great. Most insurance providers cover routine dental treatment and some policies even cover major dental, depending on your level of cover.

“Consumers should start doing their research and look for the right policy for them in preparation for the rate rise.  You can get cover for either a set dollar amount or as a percentage of the cost, with some insurers covering 50-60 per cent for general dental or between $22-125 – depending on the type of treatment[6]. Choosing cover that suits your lifestyle and budget can easily make dental visits less stressful and more affordable.”

 

How long it’s been since Australians went to the dentist % of respondents 
Visited a dentist last year61%
Haven’t visited a dentist for 1 year18%
Haven’t visited a dentist for 2 years7%
Haven’t visited a dentist for 3 years or more15%

 

Types of dental procedures that people delay for either themselves or their child to avoid costs % that delayed any dental procedure 
Dental check ups32%
Caps or crowns30%
Veneers29%
Orthodontic treatment (correcting abnormalities in jaw and tooth position such as braces, retainer or a removable device)28%
Root Canal27%
Dental scaling and cleaning26%
Dentures24%
Fillings19%
Tooth removal (such as wisdom teeth)17%
Dental x-rays16%

 

Methods of payment that Aussies would use to pay significant dental bills  % of respondents that used these methods 
Use my savings50%
Use my credit card39%
See if I could go on a payment plan20%
Increase my credit card limit to pay it6%
Use money from my superannuation6%
Borrow money from friends or family6%

 

 

For interviews and more information, please contact:
Macrina Lim | +61 2 9279 3330 | +61 430 547 751 | mlim@theideassuite.com.au   

About comparethemarket.com.au
Comparethemarket.com.au is a comparison service that takes the hard work out of shopping around. We make it Simples for Australians to quickly and easily compare and buy insurance, energy, travel and personal finance products from a wide range of providers. Our easy-to-use comparison tool enables consumers to find products that best suit their needs and back pocket.

 

[1] Survey conducted by Pureprofile December 2018

[2] The Australian Dental Associations’ Dental Fee Survey, October 2016, Page 74: https://dentalboutique.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Benchmarking-Dental-Fees-Survey-average-fee-for-dental-service-Australia.pdf

[3] For a standard 18-month plan: Orthodontics Australia, January 2019, https://orthodonticsaustralia.org.au/how-much-braces-cost/

[4] The Australian Dental Associations’ Dental Fee Survey, October 2016, Pages 18, 43, 75, 85: https://dentalboutique.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Benchmarking-Dental-Fees-Survey-average-fee-for-dental-service-Australia.pdf

[5] Price depending on local or general anesthetic for the wisdom tooth extraction

[6] Based on a comparison of eight health insurers for a 30 year old, single male for Hospital and Extras cover (myOwn, NIB, Frank, Westfund, GMHBA, AHM, CUA and Bupa) on comparethemarket.com.au.

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Written by Hannah Twiggs

Hannah (or Twiggs as she's known by most of her colleagues) is a non-stop talker, avid snack eater, dog lover and passionate writer. When she's not chatting to journalists or writing up new story angles, Hannah enjoys a good Netflix binge, going away camping with friends and big brunches - preferably with extra bacon.

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