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Is Afterpay for dental the cheapest option?


The buy now pay later service is surging in popularity with younger patients, but there might be cheaper alternatives.

When you think about Afterpay, you probably picture online purchases and impulse buys in malls. However, more and more young people are turning to Afterpay to cover their dental costs.

"We know that millennials have one of the lowest participation rates in private health, and general dental is not covered by Medicare," Afterpay said in its submission to the recent senate inquiry into buy now pay later services. "Our first partnership with Primary Dental has proven extremely popular, with thousands of patients opting to pay via the new method since its launch." Afterpay has active partnerships with four major dental chains.

"With cost being the greatest barrier to patients for dental procedures, they now have the ability to do so through the Afterpay service," Primary Dental CEO Michelle Aquilina told the senate inquiry in Afterpay's submission.

The popularity of using Afterpay for dental services is unsurprising given the declining rates of adoption of private health insurance by younger Australians. A recent online poll suggested that 80% of people believed that using Afterpay would be a cheaper option than insurance.

However, that isn't necessarily the case. If you're after a cheaper insurance option for dental, you can always take out a health insurance extras policy that covers dental work while excluding more expensive options (such as hospital cover or a broader choice of surgeons) that you don't think you'll need.

Indeed, you can find extras only options that provide access to no-gaps dental services, meaning you won't have to pay for basic dental services.

For example, a single female living in Sydney can get an annual check-up, scale and clean gap-free on an extras policy costing around $12 a month (with ahm or HCF, for instance). Up front, the same service would cost approximately $200.

Paying on Afterpay would spread that out over four $50 payments, but would still cost more than the extras cover would over the same time period. The lesson? Being able to spread out payments is useful for budget management, but insurance could prove to be even cheaper, as well as covering some of the cost of more complex treatments if you need them.

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