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Guide to dental procedures

5-minute read

What are dental procedures?

Your dentist might recommend a dental procedure if you have pain, infection, an injury, disease, deformity or other problems with your teeth or gums. If you've been told you should have a dental procedure - or you're considering having one done - this page will help you with some things to think and ask about.

A dental procedure is anything that involves a dentist working on your mouth. They include:

  • a filling
  • pulling a tooth out
  • putting a crown on a tooth
  • surgery or treatment for gum disease (called periodontal disease)
  • straightening crowded teeth
  • aligning teeth, bite and jaws
  • having a denture, dental implant or bridge made and fitted after losing teeth
  • dental surgery or treatment after an injury or cancer

What are the types of dentist?

Most dentists in Australia are general dentists — they diagnose and treat diseases of the teeth, gums and mouth. Some are specialists, who have done extra training in a particular area. For example, orthodontists diagnose and treat crooked teeth, bad bites and poorly aligned jaws. Endodontists specialise in the interior of teeth.

What should I discuss with my dentist before a procedure?

Your dentist or dental specialist should explain to you clearly what the procedure involves. You need to agree to any treatment for you or your child. By law, the dentist needs to tell you all the fees they will charge before treatment begins.

Tell the dentist about any concerns that you have and ask questions such as:

  • How long will the procedure take and what does it involve?
  • What does it cost?
  • What are the risks and benefits?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • Do I have a choice about what fillings are used?
  • What should I expect after the procedure? For example, if you are having your wisdom teeth extracted, it can take 4 or 5 days for the pain and swelling to subside.
  • What sort of anaesthetic will I be given? Remember to tell the dentist about any allergies you have.
  • What can I do to prevent tooth decay and gum disease in future?

What are my payment options?

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

Private health insurance funding

If you have private health insurance, it usually doesn’t cover the full cost of a procedure. You should find out if you will need to make a gap payment.

Government funding

The Australian Government’s Child Dental Benefits Schedule provides up to $1,000 over 2 calendar years to pay for the costs of basic dental services for some children. To be eligible, children need to be:

The $1,000 can be used to pay for various dental services, including fillings, root canal treatments and extractions.

For more information see the Child Dental Benefits Schedule.

The government also funds certain public dental services for eligible people over the age of 18 through an agreement with the states and territories. Find out here what public dental services are provided in your area.

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

How to find the right dentist

Ask friends or family if they can recommend a good dentist. You can also use the Australian Dental Association’s Find a dentist search and follow their advice on what to look out for.

You can check if your dentist is registered at the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Ask whether the chosen dentist’s practice is accredited by the Dental Board of Australia, which means the practice has met National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards. These standards commit the staff to continually improve the safety and quality of care they give to patients.

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

Last reviewed: January 2021

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