How to get the best dental insurance

Unplanned dental treatment can be expensive, thankfully dental cover can offer financial protection to guard against costly dental work. Here’s how dental insurance in Ireland works and how to find the right plan for your needs.

What is dental insurance?

It’s insurance that helps cover the cost of dental work. Dental cover is available as part of a medical insurance plan or as a stand-alone policy.

Dental insurance covers treatment to your teeth and gums and preventative care such as check-ups and cleaning.

Some procedures are fully covered, whereas others are only partially covered or excluded entirely.

What dental insurance covers

This depends on the level of cover you choose, but most dental insurance policies include full cover for:

  • Examinations/check-ups
  • Scales and polishes
  • X-rays
  • Emergency treatment

For other treatments, the level of cover you choose will affect what portion of your dental cost is covered.

Not all procedures are covered; for example, cosmetic work, veneers or whitening

Here’s an example of the type of treatments covered for a basic, mid-level or premium plan and the proportion of cost reimbursement.

Type of treatment Basic cover Mid Level cover Premium cover  
Examinations (check-ups) 100% 100% 100%  
Scale & polishes 100% 100 % 100%  
Emergency treatment 100% 100% 100%  
Restorations (fillings) Not covered 70% 70%  
Crowns Not covered 40% 70%  
Periodontal treatment & maintenance Not covered 50% 70%  
Tooth extractions Not covered 50% 70%  
Prosthetic services (dentures) Not covered 60% 70%  
Dental implants Not covered Not covered €2000 per fixture  
Orthodontic treatment (braces) Not covered Not covered €1000  
Oral cancer Not covered Not covered €5000 lump sum  
ANNUAL POLICY MAXIMUM €500 €1000 €2000  

Figures are indicative; for more information visit the insurer’s website and check the schedule of benefits for each policy

There’s usually an annual limit on how much you can claim, which is also dependent on the cover you choose.

Does dental insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

A pre-existing dental condition is an oral health problem that is already present when you take out insurance.

Most plans cover minor pre-existing conditions, such as cavities or gum disease, but won’t usually cover more serious pre-existing conditions such as:

  • Oral cancer
  • Tooth erosion
  • Tooth abscesses

If they do, your insurer may impose a waiting period before covering any treatments costs.

How does dental insurance work?

You pay a monthly or annual premium to your insurer in return for help with dental costs.

You’ll have to pay the dentist for your treatment up-front, then claim back the cost from your insurer, although some dentists run a Direct Payments scheme which means they take care of the claim for you.

Dental policies also set claim limits of between €500 to €2,000 per year. Once you reach the cap, you won’t be able to make further claims to cover treatment costs.

Your monthly premiums might increase if you have to claim for expensive treatment.

Are you covered straight away?

Yes, you’ll be covered immediately for investigative, preventative and emergency treatment, which includes:

  • Examinations
  • Scaling and polishing
  • X-rays
  • Emergency treatment

However, initial waiting periods apply to other procedures. Here’s an example of typical initial waiting periods for different types of treatment.

Type of treatment Examples Initial waiting period  
Investigative Routine check-up, x-rays Immediate  
Preventative Scale and polish, cleaning Immediate  
Emergency Tooth abscess Immediate  
Minor Fillings, tooth extractions 3 months  
Major Dentures, Crowns, Inlays 12 months  
Orthodontic Teeth straightening 18 months  

Source: Cornmarket.ie

An initial waiting period is imposed by health insurers when you take out cover for the first time and means you have to wait a set period of time before you are fully covered.

How much is dental insurance in Ireland?

Annual premiums for adult dental insurance can be as little as €172 (€14 per month) for basic cover or around €400 per year (€33 per month) for premium level cover.

Dental insurance prices depend on:

  1. your age
  2. type of plan
  3. level of cover

You only need to provide your contact details and age to get a quote, so it’s worth shopping around for the cheapest price before choosing a plan and checking carefully that the plan meets your needs.

Where to get dental insurance

You can get dental cover in several different ways. Here’s who provides dental insurance in Ireland:

  • Specialist dental insurers: DeCare Dental is the only dedicated dental insurer in Ireland. Many dental plans offered with health insurance or employee benefits will be provided by DeCare Dental.
  • Health insurance providers: Vhi offers two dental plans and a 10% discount for members, Laya Healthcare offers dental cover for their corporate clients and Irish Life Health members may benefit from discounts for dental treatment at Smiles clinics.
  • Health Cash Plan providers HSF.ie offers a range of schemes that enable you to claim cashback for treatments, inc. dental, optical or GP services.
  • Financial service providers: Online insurance brokers like Cornmarket.ie and Total Health Cover.ie offer dental insurance provided by Decare Dental or Vhi alongside other insurance and finance products.
  • Employers: Dental cover is a popular employee benefit, so if you work with a large business, it’s worth checking your benefits scheme to see if you are covered for dental treatment.

Is dental insurance worth it?

Protecting your dental health with insurance can give you peace of mind and guarantee 100% cover for investigative, preventative and emergency treatment.

Dental problems are often unplanned and expensive, especially if you’ve left a dental issue for so long it results in emergency treatment. Here’s what you could pay for these treatments:

  • White filling (composite) €90-€190
  • Tooth extraction €90-€250
  • Dentures €450-€1,200

Here’s how dental insurance can help you:

  • plan and budget for the cost of dental treatments
  • spread the costs of any emergency procedures
  • protect your oral health with regular preventative care
  • pay costs towards non-routine and major dental treatment

How to find the right dental insurance for you

Dental insurance can give you peace of mind and protect you from unexpected treatment costs, but you could end up wasting your money if the plan doesn’t match your needs.

Here’s how to make sure you’re choosing the right plan:

  1. Weigh up costs and benefits: Work out how much you’ve spent on your teeth and gums in the past and compare it to how much a dental plan costs per year.
  2. Review your dental health: Think about how much you might benefit from dental insurance; have you recently had major work carried out? Do you need regular minor treatments? or is your oral health generally good?
  3. Check exclusions: Read the schedule of benefits and policy details carefully to check for exclusions and treatments you may not be covered for.
  4. Check maximum cover limits: Insurers will usually set a price cap on individual treatments or an annual limit. Weigh up whether the annual cap would likely cover the cost of any treatments.
  5. Check for any policy excess: Some insurers charge a policy excess for certain treatments, this is typically around €100, however, others don’t, so always check for this.
  6. Check pre-existing condition clauses: Some plans don’t require pre-assessment before you take out dental cover whereas others state all pre-existing conditions are covered except for stated exclusions.

If you have read the Schedule of Benefits, FAQs and T&Cs and still have specific questions about a plan or specific conditions or treatments, call the insurer and speak to an adviser.

Other ways to save money on dental costs

You may be able to claim for an annual free check-up and subsidised scale and polish under the government Treatment Benefit Scheme.

This scheme is available to employees, the self-employed and the retired who’ve made the required number of Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions, but only 1 in 4 of those eligible claim their entitlement.

Not all dentists are registered providers of the PRSI dental scheme but if they are, you could be entitled to claim an annual free check-up, as well as a payment of €42 towards either a scale and polish or periodontal treatment.

If you’d like to find out more about the Treatment Benefit Scheme, visit Citizens Information.

Dental Insurance FAQs

Are dental insurers regulated?

Yes, all dental insurers are regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

How do I complain about my dental insurance?

If you are unhappy with the service you receive from your insurance provider, first take up your complaint with your insurer.

If the problem doesn’t get resolved with your insurer, get in touch with the Financial Services Ombudsman or call 1890 88 20 90 for further advice.

What is the annual policy maximum?

The annual policy maximum is the total amount that you are eligible to claim back on your dental plan per year (which is defined as 12 consecutive months).

Insurers may add on policy maximums for procedures such as crowns or orthodontics in addition to the annual limit.

What is Direct Pay?

Direct Pay schemes are when the insurer pays the dentist directly for costs covered by your policy.

Not all dentists are part of the Direct Pay Network, so check first and if you want to use the option:

  1. you need to contact your insurer and let them know which practice you’re attending
  2. your insurer will confirm your cover and also contact your dentist directly to confirm your entitlements
  3. when you attend your appointment, take your membership card and photo ID to confirm your eligibility
  4. once treatment has taken place, your dentist will claim payment directly from your insurer and you’ll pay any remaining balance.

If your practice doesn’t offer a Direct Pay service, you’ll pay your dentist normally, then claim back the costs covered under your policy by providing your receipt for treatment.

Will I need a pre-assessment?

No, a pre-assessment before taking out dental insurance is not necessary or required by insurers in Ireland.

What is a policy excess?

A policy excess is a standard insurance term, which means that you need to pay a proportion of the cost yourself first before you make a claim on your insurance.