Health insurance is an expat essential. But don't forget the dentist. Even if you haven't needed to go to the dentist for years, expat dental insurance is a top priority, and it's best to sort it out before you leave. It's wise to be prepared. Because tooth problems are something you can't ignore, usually requiring immediate action, we thought it would be useful to look at dental costs worldwide and how to get the cover you need for treatment.
Dental treatment abroad can be very expensive. If you want your expat dental costs covered, you need to make sure you choose an international health insurance policy that includes dental care. But how do you decide what level of cover you need?
Comparing the cost of dental care in different countries
First, you need to research the dental treatment services in your new home country. Obviously some countries offer better quality care and facilities than others, some are cheaper than others, some are government funded, some wholly private, some a mix of the two. Dental practices in the Netherlands are private, for example, with no state practices. Britain has an extensive public dental network with reduced prices subsidized by the NHS. Dental costs in Thailand are incredibly cheap, in the USA they are incredibly expensive, in Singapore they are 100% private.
The Treatment Abroad website helps you track down average dental costs for a wide variety of treatments in different countries. Knowing what's available in your new home country will help you choose the right level of dental insurance cover:
- the quality of the country's dental care system
- the average cost of treatment
- whether or not any state or reduced-cost treatment is available to you as an expat
You should also think about:
- whether you or your family tend to be vulnerable to dental problems
- whether you're taking your children with you
- how much money you can realistically save towards dental care if you don't have dental insurance
Does your expat health Insurance include dental cover/ You should always check before buying.
Standard dental care cover usually includes
- Consultations and examinations
- Emergency dental care
- Root canal procedures
- Regular anaesthetic
- Occlusion bars
- Basic fillings
Insurance for more complex dental care usually includes
- Root scaling
- Tooth adjustment
- Periodontitis treatment
- Membrane care
- Bridgework and bridge repairs
- Gingivitis (gum disease) treatment
- Temporary crowns, porcelain crowns and gold jackets
Specialist orthodontics care
Orthodontics expenses for dependent children are often included to a "˜lifetime' value, ie. a maximum amount you can claim over the life of your policy. If you're not sure whether your insurer offers such a service, ask them.
Pre-existing dental conditions
A pre-existing condition is one you had already before you took out your health insurance. Some insurers cover pre-existing conditions, others don't, so it's a good idea to check what the dental insurance element of your policy actually provides. If you belong to an expatriate group insurance plan, you can often apply to have pre-existing conditions covered.
Our WorldCare plans all include cover for emergency dental treatment following an accident, but you might also want your plan to cover the cost of both routine and complex dental treatments. If so, you need to choose either our WorldCare Excel or Worldcare Apex product.
This plan includes routine and complex dental care after a nine-month waiting period. You can claim for the fees of a registered dental practitioner carrying out routine or complex dental treatment in a dental surgery.
This is our highest level of cover with correspondingly high benefit limits including routine and complex dental treatment, paying a registered dental practitioner to carry out routine or complex dental treatment in a dental surgery.
Our dental insurance policy wording explained
We don't include dental care unless it is specifically included on your Certificate of Insurance. But we do pay for emergency in-patient dental treatment after an accident.
We don't include the telephone costs and travel expenses you pay while looking for dental advice or treatment, damage to your dentures (unless you were wearing them when you had the accident) or treatment costs for care caused by an accidental dental injury or damage when:
- it was caused by eating or drinking, even when a foreign body in the food or drink caused the injury
- it was caused by everyday wear and tear
- it was caused while you were playing rubgy (unless you're playing at school) or boxing, but you're covered as long as you wear appropriate mouth protection
- it was caused by anything other than an impact outside the mouth
- it was caused by over-zealous brushing or another oral hygiene procedure
- the damage wasn't obvious within ten days of the impact that caused your injury
- the treatment costs are incurred more than 18 months after the date you were injured and the damage was caused
How to choose a dentist in your new home country?
Your insurer might have a list of recommended dentists to choose from. If not, ask your fellow expats and co-workers if they can recommend someone good.
Make sure the dentist you choose is officially registered or accredited to practice in the country. In Australia, for example, you should check with the country's Medical Register, the Medical register of Australia.
Check the emergency dental care and regular dental care facilities on offer, whether you do it online via their websites or in person at their premises. Are they modern? Is the waiting room clean and comfortable? Does the surgery as a whole look adequately professional? Does the website include images for you to check, plus all the information you need to make an informed decision? It is often best to pick a large scale dental centre with plenty of staff, good management and contemporary facilities. Does the website include dental care performance and quality indicators? If not, do they make them available in the surgery? And do they provide full contact details: phone, email and street address?
There are also numerous expat forums to research for nuggets of insider knowledge about dental treatment abroad to help you pick a quality dentist, many of which are about dental tourism, excellent resources for finding a skilled dentist. Pick three top dental clinics then hone your choices down to one.
It makes sense to visit your new dentist for a check-up whether or not you are due one, for reassurance. You can use the visit to make sure they ask you the right questions, ask to see your dental records, provide a treatment plan and give you an accurate idea of treatment costs. If they don't ask for your dental records, find someone else.
We're always happy to answer questions. If you want to know more about international dental insurance or expat dental care, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.