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How can I save money at the dentist?

In partnership with Dr Johnson Huang

We have some simple ways to keep costs down

A blonde lady with dreadlocks sitting in the dental chair while a young dentist explains the procedure
A blonde lady with dreadlocks sitting in the dental chair while a young dentist explains the procedure

It’s recommended that Australians visit their dentist for a check-up once or twice a year, yet around four in every 10 of us avoid or delay a trip to the dentist due to the costs involved. While seeing your local dentist might not be your idea of a fun way to spend a Saturday morning, it is important to put your health first – and while those regular check-ups and dental work can start to put pressure on your wallet, there are some very simple ways you can keep costs down.

How much does the dentist cost?

This is a bit like asking ‘how long is a piece of string?’. Unlike doctors, there’s no standard fee schedule for dentists, so the cost of a dentist visit can be wildly different from one provider to the next.

“The average dental trip can vary as it depends on the type of procedures and also what is required by the patient,” explains Dr Johnson Huang from Clear Dental. And if you go in for a check-up only to have your dentist discover more unexpected work needs to be done, that can add to your bill, too.

“As we know, each patient is unique. This is why it is very important to understand all the options prior to making your decisions. For example, the cost of a denture vs an implant can be huge.”

Does it cost more if I don’t have health insurance?

Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of everyday dental services (although children 2-17 years old may be eligible to receive basic dental services under the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, and some states and territories may offer services for concession and healthcare card holders – check your local health department website for more info). This means most dental costs come directly from patients’ pockets which, worryingly, prevents many Australians from receiving adequate dental treatment.

Having Extras cover can help lower out-of-pocket dental expenses, as many policies will get you a rebate. In fact, people without insurance are more likely to avoid or delay a dentist visit due to the cost than those who do have insurance, which can cause bigger problems further down the track if issues like decay and gum disease aren’t caught early.

Exactly how much you get back from your provider depends on your chosen level of cover.

A young man sitting in the dentist chair wearing a black shirt and getting a check-up

How to save at the dentist

Aside from signing up for private health insurance, there are many other simple (and cheap!) ways to help bring those dental costs down. Looking after your teeth, for example, will pay off later. “At Clear Dental, our dentists and oral health therapists emphasise prevention by educating our patients on what sorts of food to avoid, how to brush and floss,” says Johnson.

At-home care

As Johnson mentioned, brushing and flossing twice a day is one of the best ways to minimise your dental care costs. At-home maintenance helps prevent tooth decay, cavities, gum disease and periodontitis, all of which can result in the need for major dental intervention down the track if left unchecked.


Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet is another important step to keep hefty dentist bills at bay. Sugar feeds bacteria that live in plaque on your teeth, causing acid to be produced – and that acid attacks teeth, leading to tooth decay. Avoiding sugary soft drinks and foods high in hidden sugars will help keep your teeth healthy. (Tip: if ‘sugar’ is listed in the first three ingredients on the food label, it’s probably not a good option for your chompers.)

Get regular check-ups

Yes, regular dental visits can cost you money. But the cost of not going in for regular check-ups can be far greater. With regular visits to your dentist, says Johnson, “a small problem can be fixed before it turns into something [more] expensive.” It could be worth the expense to potentially save yourself major dental work in the future.

Avoid bill shock

To make sure you’re not hit with a nasty surprise when you climb out of the dentist’s chair, request a quote estimate from the receptionist before you book your appointment. This way you know what you’re up for before you open your mouth and say ‘aaah’. “At Clear Dental, we offer no-gap consultation for complex treatments like implants and Invisalign,” says Johnson. “Our patients are well informed about the procedures, risks and costs associated with any dental work of interest.”

You may also wish to ask the receptionist for the item numbers of the procedures, then ring around a few dentists to compare prices.

Speak candidly with your dentist

If your dentist recommends additional procedures during a routine check-up, ask them to give you more info. Is the procedure necessary? Can it be delayed in order to give you the chance to save some money? What are the risks if you don’t have it done, and do the benefits outweigh them? You can also enquire about less expensive alternatives - for example, different types of fillings.

Is it time for a dental check-up?

Our nib First Choice network should be your first port of call to keep your out-of-pocket expenses low. It’s our community of specially-selected health providers who have agreed to provide nib members with quality healthcare and great customer service at an affordable price.

You can choose to see the dentist of your choice, but by choosing an nib First Choice provider, it simply means you could pay less. Search the nib First Choice network now to find a provider.

A black and white photo of Dr Johnson Huang smiling at the camera

In partnership with

Dr Johnson Huang

Ranging from restorations to practice management, Dr Johnson Huang has an unwavering passion for general dentistry and to constantly provide the highest quality of care to his patients. Many patients have been seeing Dr Huang for a number of years since he is friendly, approachable, and explains options well to his patients. Now with five locations in the Sydney metropolitan area and expanding, Dr Huang delivers his vision and patient care philosophy more readily than ever.