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Cost of dental care

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Dental treatment can be expensive.
  • Most dental care is not covered by Medicare.
  • If your family receives government benefits, your children can get Medicare bulk-billed dental services.
  • If you have private health insurance, look for a private health fund with dental extras to help cover the costs.

What is dental care?

Dental care is the care of your teeth and mouth. It is provided by a dentist, oral health therapist, dental hygienist or dental specialist. In Australia, most dental services are provided by private dental clinics.

People with health care cards and pensioner concession cards can get dental care in public dental clinics.

Dental costs vary widely between dental clinics. That is because there are no standard fees for dentists like there are for doctors. Each clinic determines their own fees.

Looking after your teeth is important for your general health. Having healthy teeth means you can enjoy eating drinking and speak without discomfort.

Does Medicare cover the costs of dental care?

The Australian Government does not generally cover the costs of dental services. You will need to pay most dental costs yourself.

Medicare does pay part or all the cost of some dental services for children, that meet the eligibility requirements.

Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS)

For eligible children, the Child Dental Benefits Schedule covers standard dental services, such as:

The Child Dental Benefits Schedule provides a capped benefit over a 2 calendar years. The payments are only available to families who are already receiving other government benefits.

To see if your child is eligible, visit the Services Australia website. The Child Dental Benefits Schedule does not cover orthodontic or cosmetic dental work or any dental services provided in a hospital.

Most Child Dental Benefits Schedule services are bulk billed, so you don't pay anything.

Public dental services:

The states and territories provide public dental services both for children and adults. These may include emergency dental services or referrals to specialist services like orthodontics in hospital.

Adults need a Health Care Card or Centrelink Pensioner Concession Card to be eligible. The rules to access public dental treatment can vary depending on where you live.

Each state and territory offer different services. You may have to wait up to a year or more to see a public dentist.

To find out what's available where you live, visit your state or territory health department website:

Dental services are also provided by some Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs).

ACCHOs are run by local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to provide health care that suits the needs of their communities. Access, eligibility and cost for care are decided by each ACCHO's management team.

The Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Scheme provides Medicare benefits for some dentistry treatments and surgery for eligible people under 28 years of age.

Does private health insurance pay for dental care?

Many Australians use private health insurance to help pay for dental care. Health funds will pay a part of the cost and you will need to pay the rest yourself.

Policies vary widely between different health funds. There are differences in what they will cover and how much they will pay. There may also be limits on how much you can claim each year.

It's important to check what is included in your cover before you receive dental care.

Dental services are part of the 'Extras' or 'Ancillary' section of your policy. Funds use different terms to describe what they will pay for, so you will need to check the policy carefully.

  • Routine dental — may include x-rays, examinations, cleaning and polishing, fluoride treatment and simple fillings.
  • Major dental — may include complex fillings, crowns, veneers, bridgework, implants and dentures.

Some health funds have preferred providers, meaning you see dentists that they recommend. This way there are lower fees, higher rebates and more preventive services. However, you may have less choice of dentists.

You can compare polices at

How can I minimise my dental care costs?

The best way to reduce the cost of dental care is to look after your teeth. It's very important to keep your mouth healthy for general health. To do this:

  • brush and floss your teeth and gums twice a day
  • limit sugar in your foods and drinks
  • visit a dentist for a check-up at least once a year

Before you agree to dental treatment, you should do the following:

  • Ask your dentist how much the procedure will cost.
  • Ask for the item numbers then contact a few dentists to compare prices.
  • Ask whether you really need this procedure. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
  • Ask whether there are less expensive alternatives. For example, can they use a less expensive type of filling?
  • Talk to your dentist about how you can prevent tooth decay and gum disease in future.

ASK YOUR DENTIST — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your dentist or specialist.

Resources and Support

You can find out more about private health insurance at the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website.

Check if you are eligible for the Child Dental Benefits Schedule at Services Australia.

Read the Australian Dental Association guide to choosing a dentist.

Healthdirect has information on paying for healthcare, including information in languages other than English.

Queensland Health provides oral health information in languages other than English.

You can find a list of ACCHOs on the website of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Read this Choice article to understand the costs of dental treatment.You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2023

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