How to afford the cost of dental treatment in Australia


8 minutes

31 July 2020

How to afford the cost of dental treatment in Australia
Last updated:

Want to make the cost of dental treatment more affordable?

Start by asking these questions:

  1. What is the cost of dental treatment in Australia?
  2. What does the government cover?
  3. Are you eligible for any public benefits?
  4. What does private health insurance cover?
  5. How to plan ahead
  6. How to prevent dental costs

1. What is the cost of dental treatment in Australia?

What dental work do you need? What are your dentist’s fees? What if you have kids, and what if they need braces? All these factors will determine how much you ultimately need to set aside for dental treatment.

Well, you can’t predict all those things. But you can look at average costs1.

Aussies spent an average of $240 per person on dental services in 2018-2019.

For perspective, Australians spent $146 per person on hospital services that year, and a combined $81 per person on health practitioners such as optometrists, physios, and chiros.

It’s clear that dental costs are a big piece of healthcare spending, so budgeting for dental care is worthwhile.

2. What does the government cover?

Unlike going to the doctor, where the Australian Government contributes to the cost of consultations and treatment through Medicare, there is no universal government contribution for dentistry.

If you’re not already receiving government benefits and not a senior citizen, there are likely no government benefits for dental treatment available to you or your children.

And if you do qualify, waiting lists may apply.

“Most states have waiting lists of well over a year for public dental care – and if people need to wait a year for care, their conditions are only going to get worse.” - Filling the Gap, a Grattan Institute Study2

That said, it’s always worth checking to see if you’re eligible.

3. Are you eligible for any public benefits?

The public system does provide some dental care support – but it’s only for people who meet specific criteria.

Public Dental Services

What’s offered and who is eligible depends on the state – but it usually focuses on senior citizens and people already receiving other government benefits.

See services by state here.

For Kids: Child Dental Benefits Schedule

If you’re receiving other Medicare payments, your children might be eligible for the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CBDS).

For eligible kids aged 2 to 17, CDBS covers up to $1000 over two calendar years for basic dental services.

This benefit can cover check-ups, X-rays, cleaning, fillings and extractions. It can NOT cover orthodontics, cosmetic dental work, or any dental services in a hospital.

For Kids: School dental services

Australian State governments offer some free dental treatment to students through school dental services.

Eligibility, treatment centres and covered treatments vary from state to state. School dental services may include general treatments like check-ups, X-rays and extractions. They are NOT likely to include orthodontics, cosmetic dental work, or oral surgery.

4. What does private health insurance cover?

Private health insurance can help cover a lot of what Medicare doesn’t.

At HBF, we cover these four dental categories:

  • Preventative Dental Covers treatment such as consultations, scale and cleans, and mouthguards.
  • General Restorative Dental – Covers treatments such as simple fillings and extractions, including wisdom teeth removal.
  • Major Dental and implants – Covers complex treatments like repairing or replacing teeth, such as with a dental crown.
  • Orthodontics – Covers treatments that assist with the alignment of teeth and the jaw, using braces and retainers.

In FY21, HBF paid out $228 million in dental claims3. So it’s safe to say that getting covered can make the cost of dental treatment more affordable.

Dental cover with HBF

Understand the dental categories and find out what's covered to discover the best dental cover for your needs.

Find out more

If you get private health insurance for dental, you’ll want to make sure that you get the right level of cover for your needs. And don’t forget, when you take out your cover for the first time, you will have a waiting period to serve before your private health starts paying benefits for your treatment.

Thinking about it? Here are 4 questions to ask yourself before you buy extras cover.

Already covered? Great. But maybe check if your health cover needs an update.

5. How to plan ahead

Outside of government support and private insurance, one smart move is to plan ahead and save.

If you or your child require major dentistry or treatment from an orthodontist, it’s worth saving up for the costs in advance. Teeth are relatively slow-growing and your dentist or orthodontist is often able to let you know if you’re likely to incur the cost of braces, for example. You can always ask your dentist when you’ll need this treatment, which will help you plan for the cost.

Also don’t hesitate to have frank discussions with your dentist, and don’t be afraid to shop around.

  • Ask your dentist how much the procedure will cost
  • Ask whether there are other options or less expensive alternatives for your treatment.
  • Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion or quotes from other dentists as dental costs and treatment options do vary amongst dental provider.
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6. How to prevent dental costs

Finally, the simplest (but sometimes hardest) solution.

Forming good habits is the best way to protect yourself from preventable dental issues. The most affordable way to manage the health of your teeth and gums is through regular brushing, daily flossing and dental check-ups every year — all the stuff the toothpaste ads constantly tell us to do.

Now what?

Consider your budget, think about dental cover, consult with your dentist – do what you can to plan ahead for dental costs wherever possible. The decisions you make now really can have a long-term impact on the health and wellbeing of your family.


This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.

1 AIHW - Health expenditure Australia 2018-2019 (2020)
2 Grattan Institute - Filling the gap: A universal dental scheme for Australia (2019)
3 HBF - Annual Report (2021)