Don’t Let Debt Fears Deter Patients – Jeremy Hedrick

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  Posted by: Dental Design      6th July 2018

More than 6 million people in Britain do not believe they will ever be debt-free. In fact, almost a quarter of all Britons struggle to make ends meet, with the average person owing over £8,000 on top of any mortgage debt they already have.[i]These worrying statistics reflect what the Financial Conduct Authority discovered in a survey they directed which found that half of the UK population are financially vulnerable. Approximately 23% of 25- to 34-year-olds are most indebt as opposed to any other age group, and many have missed paying domestic bills or meeting credit commitments in three or more of the last six months.[ii]For those that are facing a squeeze on their income as inflation outpaces pay increases, dental care may be viewed as an unnecessary expense that can be avoided. The irony is that treatment can prove more costly in the long term for Brits who choose not to put money where their mouth is.

One of the reasons why some people might put off seeking treatment is the cost of it in their local area. According to the private healthcare online search engine,, the cost of dental care varies dramatically depending on what practice you attend in the UK. studied the fees charged by more than 12,000 private dentists across the country in 2014 for the most common treatments, including root canal surgery and tooth whitening. In London, tooth whitening was found to cost £600, while in Portsmouth it was valued at £163 – surprisingly, this is the only instance where London proved to be the priciest location for dental work in the UK. In contrast, Oxford was found to be the most expensive place to get veneers at £610, with the average cost across the country to be around £428. Wolverhampton offered the best deal at £240.[i]

With the costs of dental treatment in the UK ever increasing and waiting lists getting longer each year, medical tourism for dental care is proving a popular alternative for many UK patients that want treatment within their budget. With short flight times and inexpensive ticket prices, some patients are opting to fly to Europe in search of great value treatments with the bonus of a cultural city break.

A recent study by Treatment Abroad analysed the trends in dental tourism, looking at both the number of patients going abroad for popular treatments, including implants, veneers, bridges, root canal therapy and tooth straightening.[ii]Having earned a reputation as ‘the dental capital of Europe’, Hungary has been promoted as the best place to go for cheap dental care – root canal treatment can cost from £120 in Hungary, compared to £250 in the UK, and veneers from £320, compared to £450.[iii]These savings can sour, however, if, on return home, patients need further work to have issues put right. In a survey by the British Dental Association (BDA), 29% of UK dentists reported that they had to treat patients for complications arising from treatment overseas.iii

Since 2012, households have increasingly failed to clear their credit and store card bills at the end of the month. High interest rates on those cards have sent their debts rocketing and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) now predict unsecured household debt will reach 47% of income by 2021.[iv]Having a home and owning a car are the most expensive essentials in the majority of people’s lives, however, it is becoming increasingly difficult for many in the UK to keep up with their monthly payments on these essential expenses – it is easy to see how dental care can be overlooked amidst the worry of other, more substantial debts. Practitioners, therefore, should remind patients of the importance of maintaining a good oral health regime.

For those struggling with debt, the expense of dental treatment can be difficult to shoulder, particularly if they are already trying to maintain a tight budget. This could potentially prevent them from getting the care they need. Equally, someone may aspire to improve their smile through cosmetic dental work, but feel the price is impossible to meet. The Munroe Sutton Healthy Discounts Plan can help patients in this regard. Unlike dental insurance, this is a very simple, affordable plan which gives members a 20% discount on dental treatments at participating practices, including check-ups and necessary work such as root canal treatment, as well as cosmetic dental work including braces and tooth whitening. Through small monthly or yearly payments, dental care is that much more accessible.

Cost can prove to be a barrier to people acquiring the dental treatment they need. People in debt cannot ignore their responsibility towards maintaining their overall dental health, otherwise it could have a negative impact on them in the long-term. That is why it is important for practitioners to offer patients ways in which to tackle the cost of dental care head-on, so as to ensure patients come back to the practice for regular treatment.   


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[i]Christie, S. (2014) Britain’s dental cost lottery – and how to pay less in your postcode. Link: [Last accessed: 22.12.17].

[ii]Treatment Abroad. (2017) Dental tourism as popular as ever. Link: [Last accessed: 02.01.2018].

[iii]Senior, K. (2013) Which countries are popular for dental treatment abroad? Link: [Last accessed 02.01.2018].

[iv]Inman, P. and Barr, C. (2017) The UK’s debt crisis – in figures. Link: [Last accessed: 03.01.2018].

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