Smiling couple lying in the sun

Dental Insurance

Looking for dental health insurance? Compare 30+ Australian health funds and find cover to smile about.

Dental treatment in Australia can be a prohibitively expensive, especially if you don't have health insurance. Here we take a look at how dental procedures are covered by the private health system and discuss the advantages and limitations.

Use the comparison engine to filter policies by dental service

Tired of trawling through multiple policies trying to work out which type of dental treatment is covered? Simply complete the form, hit Search Policies and use the refine search button in the top right-hand corner to sort policies by general dental, major dental, endodontic and orthodontic. You can also use this feature to sort by fund or by other extras services.


How is dental covered by health insurance?

  • Extras cover. This is where the majority of cover for dental services can be found. Health funds break dental into two sections in extras, which are general dental and major dental (orthodontics is sometimes separate as well but typically falls under major dental). Most basic extras include general dental while major dental can be found in higher level extras policies.
  • Hospital cover. Is only needed for in-patient dental procedures, such as wisdom teeth removal. If your hospital cover includes oral surgery, you may be able to claim for the full cost of the procedure (Medicare pays 75%, your fund pays the remaining 25%), as well as accommodation, theatre and anaesthetist fees.
Yes, but it's quite rare for funds to offer it. For example, HBF offers a dental-only plan but its availability is restricted to people living in Western Australia. If you don't want cover for the other services provided in extras, you may want to consider a dental plan over health insurance.

What treatments are included under general and major dental?

  • General dental. This can include cleaning, small fillings, plaque removal and X-rays. If you're young, healthy and single and only visit the dentist once or twice a year for minor treatments, it might be all you need.
  • Major dental. This option may be more suitable for families and older people, as it covers more complex procedures such as braces, dentures, orthodontics, wisdom teeth removal, crowns, bridges and root canal work. 
Some health funds allow you to access general or preventative dental treatments such as cleaning, scaling, fluoride treatments and mouth guards for free, or with no out-of-pocket expenses. You can learn more about how these programs work here.

Factors to consider when comparing dental policies

What waiting periods apply to dental claims?

Waiting periods exist to stop people from only taking out health insurance if they suddenly have to undergo an expensive procedure. This benefits both policy holders and health funds, as abuse of the system would quickly result in increased premiums:

  • Major dental. Waiting periods generally range from six to twelve months depending on the treatment.
  • General dental. Waiting periods can be as little as two months or waived altogether for simple preventative treatments.

In order to attract new members health funds regularly offer sign up deals that allow you to instantly claim on extras services such as general dental. However, it's uncommon for major dental treatments to be included in these promotions.

Is a dental plan worth considering?

As well as taking out private dental cover, there is the option of a discount dental plan. These do not pay for dental expenses, but provide discounted prices from a network of participating dentists in exchange for an annual membership fee. Both schemes have their advantages and drawbacks, which are summarised below:

Type of dental coverProsCons
Dental health insurance
  • Choose the dentist who treats you.
  • Access a wide range of dental services.
  • Your costs are fully or partially covered.
  • Higher tier dental policies can be expensive.
  • Waiting periods apply to claims.
  • Benefit limits cap the amount you can claim per year.
Discount dental plan
  • Lower membership fee.
  • No waiting periods apply.
  • Receive discounts on dental care.
  • Must use a participating dentist to receive benefits.
  • Discounts may not fully cover your dental bill.

Blue toothbrushes and toothpaste

Does the public health system offer any cover for dental?

When can Medicare cover you as an adult?

  • If it is needed to protect the patients general health.
  • If it forms a part of a Medicare approved treatment, such as dental work prior to radiation treatment for oral cancer.

Hospitalisation for dental-related treatment may also be covered by Medicare (e.g. if you develop an infection from having a tooth removed), but it typically won't pay for any follow-up dental care once the condition has been treated, or for specialist fees not related to the specific condition being treated.

What is the Child Dental Benefits Schedule?

The Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) is a program run by the Australian Government for around 3 million eligible Australian children. It provides up to $1,000 in benefits over two consecutive calendar years. Eligible dental services include:

  • Examinations
  • X-rays
  • Teeth cleaning
  • Fissure sealing
  • Fillings
  • Root canals
  • Extractions
  • Partial dentures

Services can be provided in a public or private clinic, although no cover is available for orthodontic or cosmetic dental work, and there are no benefits for treatments in a hospital.

To receive benefits under the CDBS, a child must be eligible for Medicare, aged between 2 and 17 years at any time in the calendar year and have received a specified payment from the Australian Government (e.g. Family Tax Benefit A) at any stage during the calendar year. In most cases you will be notified if your child is eligible at the beginning of the year.

Are there any risks associated with dental tourism?

Due to rising health insurance costs, a new industry has sprung up known as dental tourism. Major dental procedures are often much cheaper in developing countries, so many Australians are now opting to travel overseas to receive treatment since fees can be as low as one-quarter of the cost of having it done at home.

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) commented on this through a media release on 29 June 2017 and outlined four key risks associated with dental tourism:

  • Procedures may be rushed. Most major dental procedures require numerous dental visits, with ample time between them to allow the gums and teeth to heal. Reducing this period down to a couple of weeks, or even days, while on holiday greatly increases the risk of complications, even if the actual treatment is up to standard.
  • You may end up paying more. Fixing a botched procedure can end up being more costly, with the money saved on the initial 'cheap' overseas trip wasted if you have to return to the foreign practitioner for follow-up treatment. Additionally, if you try and get it rectified in Australia, dentists may charge more for treating you 'mid-stream'.
  • Lower standards and regulation. Australian dental training and standards are high, and practitioners must also be registered. This kind of regulation is not always enforced to the same degree in other countries. The equipment available to dentists overseas can also be of lower quality than compared to Australia.
  • Higher risk of infection. The growth of antibiotic-resistant 'Superbugs' is a growing area of concern among health professionals worldwide, and have appeared to a higher degree in overseas hospitals and clinics that have low infection control standards. In Australia, these processes are strictly enforced.

As the ADA Deputy Chairman of the Oral Health Committee Dr Michael Foley said,

Don’t risk the ‘cheap health holiday away’ only to have a ‘big health bill’ after you come back.

Dental coverage offered by participating health funds

This is a broad overview of how dental treatment is covered by health funds in the finder.com.au fund panel. You can find a complete breakdown of how each Australian health fund covers specific dental treatments by using the navigation portals at the top of this guide.

Health fundAnnual benefit limits for dental treatments*Waiting periods
ahmGeneral. Unlimited
Complex. Up to $1,000
Major. Up to $1,100
General. None
Complex. 12 months
Major. 12 months
Australian Unity General. Up to $1,000
Major. Up to $800
General. 2 months
Major. 6 to 12 months
CBHS Health Fund Preventative. Unlimited
General. Unlimited
Major. Up to $7,340
Preventative. 2 months
General. 2 months
Major. 6 to 12 months
CUA HealthGeneral. Unlimited
Major. Up to $1,100
General. 2 months
Major. 12 months
GMHBAPreventative. Up to $500
General. Up to $2,000
Major. Up to $2,000
General. 2 months
Major. 12 months
HCF Preventative. Unlimited
General and Major. Up to $1,000
Preventative. 2 months
General. 2 to 12 months
Major. 12 months
health.com.auGeneral. Up to $850
Major. Up to $850
General. 2 months
Major. 12 months
HIFPreventative. Unlimited
General. Up to $1,500
Major. Up to $1,500
General. 2 months
Major. 12 months
NIB Preventative. Unlimited
General. Up to $1,000
Major. Up to $1,300
Preventative. 2 months
General. 2 months
Major. 12 months
Teachers Health Fund General. Unlimited
Major. Up to $1,300
General. 2 months
Major. 12 months
Orthodontics. 24 months
UniHealth General. Unlimited
Major. Up to $1,300
General. 2 months
Major. 12 months
Orthodontics. 24 months

*Disclaimer: The benefit limits listed on this table are taken from the highest level of extras cover offered by these health funds. Lower tier policies may pay a smaller benefit amount or not cover certain dental services. Benefit limits are based on a policy quoted for a single male under 65 years of age earning less than $90,000 living in NSW. 

More information about specific dental services

Back to top

Latest headlines

Picture: Shutterstock

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Related Posts

Compare health insurance on finder.com.au

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, read the PDS or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
Ask a question
feedback