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Guide to dental procedures

8-minute read

Key facts

  • A dental procedure is anything that involves a dentist dental practitioner working on your mouth.
  • Dental procedures include: a filling or crown for your tooth, treatment for gum disease, straightening crowded teeth, dental surgery or having dentures made.
  • Dental procedures can help you with pain, infection, an injury or other problems with your teeth or gums.
  • Find out the benefits, risks and costs before you go ahead with a dental procedure.

What are dental procedures?

A dental procedure is anything that involves a dentist or dental practitioner working on your mouth.

Dental procedures can help with:

  • pain
  • infections
  • injury
  • deformity
  • other problems with your mouth, teeth or gums

Dental procedures include:

What are the different types of dentist or dental practitioner?

Most dentists in Australia are general dentists — they diagnose and treat diseases of the teeth, gums and mouth. Dentists must complete at least 4 years of study at a university. Dental specialists have further training.

Specialist dentists include:

  • Orthodontists — that diagnose and treat crooked teeth, bad bites and poorly aligned jaws
  • Endodontists — that specialise in treating problems inside your teeth
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons — that specialise in surgical procedures of the teeth, mouth and jaw
  • Paediatric dentists — that specialise in dental services for children
  • Periodontists — that specialise in gum disease

Are there other types of dental practitioners?

Yes, other types of dental practitioners are:

  • dental hygienists
  • oral health therapists
  • dental therapists
  • dental prosthetists

These dental practitioners must complete 2 or 3 years of study.

Dental hygienists diagnose and treat problems with the teeth mouth and gums. They provide education and preventive treatments.

Oral health therapists complete at least 3 years of study at a university. They can provide oral health education and basic dental and preventive services to all age groups.

Dental therapists provide oral health education and routine dental treatments for children. If they have completed further training, they can provide basic dental care for adults.

Dental prosthetists complete a diploma or university education program. They can provide dentures and mouthguards.

Dentists and dental practitioners must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency.

What should I discuss with my dentist or dental practitioner before a procedure?

Your dentist or dental practitioner should explain clearly what your procedure involves. You need to agree to any treatment for you or your child.

They need to tell you how much they will charge before starting the treatment.

Tell your dentist or dental practitioner about any concerns that you have. Ask questions such as:

  • How long will the procedure take?
  • What will it cost?
  • What are the risks and benefits?
  • What happens if I don't have it done?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • Do I have a choice about what fillings are used?
  • What should I expect after the procedure?
  • Will I be in pain? How can I manage pain?
  • What can I do to prevent future dental problems?

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

What are my payment options?

Always ask for a quote for the costs of your procedure. This is especially important if you need a major procedure, such as orthodontic treatment.

Private health insurance

Extras cover, through private health insurance, can help with dental treatment costs that are not covered by Medicare.

Private health insurance policies don't usually cover the full cost of dental treatment. The amount that you can claim depends on the specific policy that you have. You may need to make a gap payment. Ask your private health insurers about their preferred providers.

Government funding for children

The Australian Government's Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) can help you pay for the costs of basic dental services for your children.

The Child Dental Benefits Schedule provides up to $1,052 per child over 2 calendar years. This amount goes up on 1 January each year.

Your child needs to be:

  • aged between 0 and 17 years
  • eligible for Medicare

You also need to be getting a government payment at least once a year. For example, Family Tax Benefit Part A.

The $1,052 can be used to pay for:

  • dental check ups
  • x-rays
  • cleaning
  • fissure sealing
  • fillings
  • root canals
  • extractions

The Child Dental Benefits Schedule does not cover:

  • orthodontic work
  • cosmetic dental work
  • dental services in a hospital

Services Australia also has information in Arabic, Assyrian, Chinese, Dari, Korean, Persian (Farsi), Serbian, Tagalog, Turkish and Vietnamese.

Government funded clinics for adults

The government also funds certain public dental services for adults. Find out what public dental services are available in your state or territory.

How can I find the right dentist or dental practitioner?

Here are some things to do when searching for a dentist or dental practitioner:

  • Ask your friends or family if they can recommend someone.
  • Try the Australian Dental Association's Find a dentist search for dentists.

Check if the dentist or dental practitioner registered at the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Their registration record will also tell you if they speak a language in addition to English.

Call the practice and ask what you would pay for a full check-up and clean and what is included. An average check-up takes 20-25 minutes. It will include a look at your teeth, gums, inside your cheeks, palate, tongue and lips.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

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

Last reviewed: April 2023

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