The chances of finding someone who truly enjoys a trip to the dentist are understandably slim. More surprising, perhaps, is the sheer number of people who find it such a painful experience.

Research suggests that the majority of the UK population (53%) suffer from fear or anxiety when visiting the dentist.

Based on this figure, more than 35 million people are already put off the idea of having a routine check-up or treatment, and that’s before factoring in another major source of avoidance for many: cost.

The 2021 adult oral health survey, commissioned by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), found that cost affected the type of dental care or treatment received for a third of adults (33%), while a quarter (25%) said it was the reason behind them delaying dental care or treatment.

Counting the cost of care

More recently, the cost-of-living crisis has further intensified pressure on health and wellbeing expenditure amid a squeeze on household budgets. Rising costs for treatment have even led to predictions from leading dentists that more people could make the drastic choice to treat themselves.

And dental costs are not the only concern. A public poll from the Association of Optometrists found that cost has led almost two-thirds of people (62%) who wear glasses to put off going to the opticians, while a third (36%) are wearing out-of-date prescriptions and around a fifth (19%) are using glasses that they have repaired themselves.

In the face of such pressures, health cash plans can provide a cost-effective way of supporting payment for routine treatments such as dentistry and optometry. Here, we answer some of the key questions about this not particularly well-known type of policy.

How does a cash plan work?

With a health cash plan, you pay a regular policy premium every month. When it comes to accessing treatment, you pay upfront but then reclaim an amount back from your cash plan provider. How much you can claim will depend on your specific policy, which might have limits associated with each claim and/or overall annual limits.

The claim process involves sending details of your treatment to your provider alongside a receipt as evidence of the costs involved. The provider will then verify the claim against your policy before issuing the appropriate level of funds upon approval.

Cash plans are designed to cover more routine aspects of healthcare, such as dental treatments, eye tests and physiotherapy sessions. Certain companies also provide access to additional non-cash benefits, such as virtual GP services, wellbeing apps and on-demand mental health support.

While they might appear similar, health cash plans should not be confused with private medical insurance (PMI). PMI differs in that it is designed to cover costs associated with non-emergency treatment in private medical facilities for the conditions covered by your policy.

Because the level of cover provided by cash plans is comparatively lower than private medical insurance, premiums are also typically lower. However, this is not often well understood, with more than half of people (59%) overestimating the cost involved, according to one survey.

Help for employee health

In some cases, companies will offer health cash plans as an employee benefit, provided either at no cost or at a discounted rate to help support an individual and/or their family with regular healthcare costs. As well as investing in the health and wellbeing of their employees, providing access to health cash plans via the workplace can also help employers tackle absence through sickness and, in doing so, contribute towards improved productivity.

According to the latest Health and Wellbeing at Work report from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, the sickness absence rate is currently at the highest level for over a decade, with 7.8 days recorded per employee per year.

The underlying factors behind these figures are complex and there is no silver bullet that can solve them all at once. However, health cash plans can help provide individuals with support that allows them to get cost-effective access to the medical professionals they need for more routine treatments.

They are unlikely to turn a trip to the dentist into something enjoyable, but they can certainly go a long way towards making it a more financially comfortable experience.


The information contained within this communication does not constitute financial advice and is provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether express or implied is given in relation to such information. Vintage Health or any of its associated representatives shall not be liable for any technical, editorial, typographical or other errors or omissions within the content of this communication.