Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before we start debating the best ways to keep teeth clean and healthy, can we all just admit that brushing twice daily is the rule of thumb. Steering clear of sugary drinks also seems like a no-brainer. How we all maintain our kids’ dental hygiene is our business and no one should be allowed to tell us otherwise. Except a dentist, of course.

And that’s what this article is really about: as parents, we don’t know everything about dental health and the costs that can come with it. Even if a child has never missed a brush, they could still be susceptible to dental and orthodontic issues down the track. They’re growing up; their bodies are changing every day.

You can’t keep kids out of trouble

Also, kids are kids and they get up to mischief and misadventure all the time. They play, they climb trees, they fall over, they ride bicycles (too fast and over big mounds of dirt into the air), and all that other stuff that occurs as they learn to navigate and negotiate the big wide world.

There are some important details to note, specifically for protecting your kids’ teeth as they grow up:

Dental cover is typically an ‘Extras’ package

With most private health cover funds, you won’t get any dental cover as part of a hospital cover package – maybe a little if you’re lucky. Typically, you have to fork out extra dough for an Extras package that includes dental but it will cover the whole family.

Dental cover has 3 or 4 different products

There are different types of dental care, so there are different categories of dental health insurance cover. Typically, these categories are General Dental (or Routine or Preventative), Major Dental and Orthodontic but some funds will include an additional Complex Dental or separate Crowns, Bridges and Dentures. Other times General and Major Dental are combined.

There are different tiers of Dental cover

Depending on your health fund, they may have a Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze-type tiering system. This will affect how much you pay in monthly premiums as well as how much you can rebate. As you can imagine, the rebates on a Gold package are very good compared to a lower Bronze package.

What can you expect for rebates?

Regardless of the tier, your package will acknowledge each kind of dental treatment and specify how much can be claimed. This is usually separated into annual or hard caps, as well as other exceptions.

For example:

Gold Extras with BUPA (their highest tier of cover) has no limit on the amount you can rebate for what it calls General Dental – routine visits to the dentist; cleaning, x-rays, fillings, minor chips, etc. There is a 2-month waiting period though.

Another example:

Basic Extras with AHM (the lowest tier) has a limit of $500 per person on ‘Routine Dental’ and no cover for Complex, Major or Orthodontic care. But there’s no waiting period.

A third example:

Silver Plus Extras with HCF (a middle option) also has a limit of $500 per person for General Dental, but each person can only have a maximum of 2 check-ups, 2 scale and clean procedures and 1 fluoride treatment per year. Also there’s no cover for Major or Orthodontic procedures. Arguably this is all a family with reasonable healthy teeth would need, but if there’s a history of poor dental health, people having braces, or if your child has some kind of calcium deficiency then this cover is likely to be inappropriate for your needs.

Hello health insurance, my old friend.

Imagine: there’s a call on your phone; it’s the school nurse. Your kid has had a tooth knocked colliding with another kid during some friendly ball game. It was an elbow to the mouth. It happens. There’s no way to ever completely protect your kids from harm. It’s part of growing up.

All that money forked over every month for private family health insurance can work in your favour if you choose the right plan. Losing a tooth is probably covered under Major Dental. Many low-tier plans don’t cover this. Your child may be approaching teenage age years when orthodontic procedures may be needed. Combined with regular dentist visits, these are all warning signs that upgrading your dental plan may pay off.

Research, compare and hope

But what to do? The best thing is to consider the dental health of yourself, your partner and your children, listen to your dentist and compare the different products out there. Talk to everyone but be sure to make your own decision. Some eventualities you can prepare for and some will always just be an accident. If you ask me, good teeth are worth any price but I didn’t upgrade my cover until my kids started playing sport and I’m thankful I was able to do so.

Choosewell is a free, online comparison service supported by experienced consultants who can discuss your options by phone. Here you can compare side-by- side some of the many different plans for Dental Health Care and their caps to see which plan might works for your family needs (and budget) before one of them comes home with a shirtful of blood and a tooth in a tissue!