Going to the dentist…we all dread it, don’t we?
However, it is not only the fear of the drill and the scary chair which make us uneasy.
For most of us, there is something a lot more scary than this: the bill at the end!
Dental care in Australia is VERY expensive regardless of if you need a filling or a root canal treatment and unless you are a child or teenager, Medicare pays nothing!
As a result, many Australians simply can’t afford to go to the dentist and research shows we have some of the worst teeth in the developed world (with remote areas in Australia faring especially badly, which is hardly surprising).
The ABC’s consumer affairs show The Checkout (of which I am a massive fan!), did a piece about the dental fees and how to manage them.
I must admit that personally, I found the humour a bit strange in this particular segment and not the usual sophisticated quirkiness The Checkout are known for. That ‘tooth fairy’ is a full blown psycho I reckon… 😉
Anyways, the content and the information itself are absolutely top notch as usual.
Check it out and be the judge for yourself.
The video mentioned information about average charges for various dental treatments provided by the federal government.
This information is available here but keep in mind that it was collected in 2015 so may be outdated by now.
For more up-to-date information, you can refer to this data collected through the Australian Dental Association’s annual fee survey.
The most common solution that Australians turn to in order to lower their dental care costs is private health insurance and this is one of the leading reasons for getting what’s called “extras” cover which is cover for services and treatments received outside hospital.
However, private health insurance is not cheap with prices constantly going up while government rebates are going down.
Furthermore, research has also shown that being tied to a health fund can actually reduce your dental care options.
We are all familiar with the phenomenon of going to the dentist to get treated and being hit with a nasty ‘Gap Payment’ which can often amount to thousands of dollars. The gap payment is what you have to pay on top of what your health fund, to whom you paid decent amount of your hard earned over the years, is paying towards your treatment.
So what is one to do? Is there a way to further reduce the cost of dental care other than resorting to going overseas to a developing country in order to get major work done on your teeth?
Well, looks like now there is!
Smile describe themselves as “Australia’s first dental care plan”.
“So what’s a dental care plan anyway?”
Well, Smile works in quite a different way than your health fund when it comes to dental care. They follow a business model which is quite common in other developed countries but is not yet well known here.
Instead of complex limits, exclusions and waiting periods, Smile simply gives you an upfront discount on your dental care for a simple and low annual membership fee.
There are no health checks, waiting periods or exclusions and the discounts on some of the services can amount to as high as 40%.
This could amount to some serious dough!
Furthermore, with Smile there are no contracts or commitments of any kind. This, together with the fact that there are no waiting periods, means that you can choose to be a member only in years when you expect to require a lot of work done.
Better yet, the discount provided by Smile is on top of any rebate from your private health fund so you can definitely ‘double dip’ to further lower your dental care expenses.
How does it actually work?
The way this works is that you get the Smile discount off the cost of your treatment directly from the dentist.
This process is explained here.
If you have dental cover in your private health insurance plan, you can also get the rebate they normally pay. This in addition to the discount you received because you are a smile member.
The health fund rebate can be received on the spot if your dentist has electronic claim facilities such as HICAPS (most do) or by paying the discounted bill (after the Smile discount has been applied) and then approaching your health fund later on for the rebate.
For people who also have private health insurance, Smile prepared detailed step-by-step explanations of how to use their membership for most of the major health funds and you can find that here.
The bottom line is that a Smile membership can significantly reduce those dreaded ‘gap payments’ (or maybe even eliminate them altogether on some low end services).
You also don’t need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident in order to join Smile!
This means that if you are an international student or someone on a temporary work visa, you can still join and will pay exactly the same as the locals.
This could be a great way to significantly reduce the cost of your dental care while in Australia without having to take an expensive overseas extras cover from a private health insurance company.
The breakdown of the various dental care services covered by Smile and their respective discounts are outlined on their website so you can have a look for yourself.
Some of you might ask at this stage :
“Is there a ‘catch’ to this? this all sounds too good to be true”.
Well, let me assure you that after conducting extensive research into this and based on my own personal experience as a paying member, Smile seem to be fair dinkum.
Furthermore, based on their online reviews, lots of other people are quite happy with the scheme.
There is however a certain ‘catch’:
In order to receive the discounts offered to Smile members, you must utilise the services of a ‘participating dentist’.
This basically means a dentist that has signed up with Smile and agreed to offer their members the prescribed upfront discounts on their dental care.
However, this should not be an issue. Smile already has 2,000 dentists around Australia with hundreds more waiting to come on-board.
This means that if your current dentist is not already part of the scheme, he or she will soon be or you can always tell them about it and suggest they join.
The full list of Smile providers is available on their website and many of them are also members of the ‘preferred providers’ networks of the major health funds which means that if you also have dental care included as part of your private health insurance extras plan, you will get higher rebates with them.
Again, keep in mind that these rebates are in addition to the discount offered by Smile.
Also, Smile employs a screening process to ensure all participating dentists are properly qualified, work in a quality practice and provide quality service to patients.
Here is a statement I received from Smile regarding the screening process they use before allowing new dentists to join the scheme:
Although it is free for practices to participate, Smile’s Practice Services Team spends approximately 3 months on each practice that has applied before approving them.
Our aim is to provide quality and affordable dental care to all Australians.
Spending 3 months researching each interested practice is the best way to ensure that Smile patients will also receive quality treatment.
I’m quite happy with that response personally and that’s why I’m a member myself.
Potential overcharging by dentists who are part of the Smile dental scheme
In the past, there have been a small number of reports about dentists who were ‘loading up’ their prices for Smile members which negated the discount offered.
I approached Smile regarding this and here is what they had to say on the matter:
Smile staff constantly checks practices through a series of calls throughout the year to ensure that they abide by the Smile Fee Schedule rules. These rules are as follows:
- Participating practices MUST abide by the Smile Fee Schedule and the fees we stipulate there are the maximum they can charge our members.
- If the practice’s normal fee is below our benchmark (which is 15% above the Smile Fee), the practice has to reduce their normal fee by a further 15%.
- The practice has to reduce all items not set out by the Smile Fee Schedule by 15%.
This guarantees that you always receive at least 15% off your treatment fees, and in the case of fees on the Schedule the savings can be up to 40% and in some instances even more.
It also means that it doesn’t matter what the practice’s normal fee is, as the vast majority of treatment members receive is set out by the Smile Fee Schedule (nearly 90% of all dental treatment).
All participating practices will be in line with these fees apart from a very small group that already have low fees. These practices have to reduce their normal fees by a further 15% for our members.
Smile also encourages feedback regarding practices and takes all comments very seriously. Our aim is to provide quality and affordable dental care to all Australians and member feedback is vital to our continuing success.
The Smile Dental Scheme in the news
Below are two videos featuring news reports about Smile which explain how and why the business was started and how it operates.
As you may know by now, we always like to offer our readers and members something extra and ideally, something that is exclusive to us and which you cannot get anywhere else.
Well, I’ve reached out to Smile’s marketing team and managed to negotiate a 20% discount off your first payment to Smile. This is the highest discount they have ever offered!
You will need to enter the coupon code SPENDINGHACKER20 at the online checkout screen in order to get your discount.
Remember: that’s the only way to get a discount that high and is exclusive to us when you sign up to smile using any of the links on this page.
While you’ll be paying the standard membership rates after your initial prepaid period (either 1 or 2 years) is over, remember that Smile has no waiting periods or any qualification requirements.
This means you can sign up for the initial period, enjoy the discounts on all the dental treatments you have during that time (up to 40% off the normal rates your dentist charges) and then cancel your membership before your next membership renewal to avoid getting charged again!
The cancellation process is very easy and hassle-free through their online member dashboard or you can always call them if you prefer to speak to a human 🙂 .
Keep in mind though that there are no refunds.
This means that if you cancel, your membership will still remain active until the next renewal date and after that it will be terminated.
Sounds good and you’re keen?
Click here to get started.
If you have any questions or comments about this Smile, please put them in the comments section below.
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