Dental perks for employees’ families

With NHS dentists becoming increasingly difficult to access, employers can offer staff the opportunity to cover dependants for a range of treatments through dental perks, says Sam Barrett

Finding an NHS dentist is becoming increasingly difficult. As a result, dental insurance, for employees and their families, is becoming a popular benefit.

Kirsty Jagielko, health benefits product manager at Cigna Healthcare, says: “When the dental contract came in last year it made it harder to find an NHS dentist and even children aren’t guaranteed treatment anymore. We’re seeing a lot of demand for schemes that can be extended to cover dependants.”

Different types of schemes can be used to offer dental care to staff and their families, with dependants receiving the same benefits as the employee. Dental insurance, healthcare cash plans and dental plans can all be used to provide the perk.

Costs vary when extending cover to dependants. While insurers generally multiply the employee rate by the number of people covered, cash plan providers take a different stance. Abby Bowman, public relations manager at HSA, explains: “On our cash plans, children are covered for free, while from just £1 a month, an unlimited number of children can be added.”

But, whether an insurance scheme or a cash plan, benefits are designed to cover the cost of routine and restorative work, as well as including some cover for dental injury and emergencies. On top of this, some of the insurance products, and HSA’s dental plan, will also include cover for mouth cancer. Denplan and HSA, for example, provide £12,000 for this.

This standard type of cover for routine and restorative work and dental emergencies may be perfectly acceptable for adults but, with their teeth still growing, children may require expensive orthodontic work. The British Orthodontic Society puts a figure of £2,000 to £2,500 on a course of treatment.

Healthcare cash plans can be more flexible as the benefit covers any dental work including orthodontics. However, Jan Lawson, managing director of the Private Health Partnership, warns of the limitations: “Even the most expensive cash plans don’t provide enough benefit for work such as orthodontics, especially once the cost of routine work is taken into account.”

With larger group schemes, it’s possible to address any shortfalls with some flexibility. Larry Bulmer, managing director of healthcare intermediaries Advo Group, says most insurers will consider tailoring the benefits for groups of at least 50 people.

With bespoke schemes it’s possible to match benefits and costs to your requirements. You can even put together a scheme that only covers the more expensive and unusual dental work such as crowns and bridges. “Staff may fear a large, unexpected bill so you might want to design benefits to give them the reassurance that this would be covered although they’d still pay for routine treatment,” says Lawson.

It’s also possible to add cover for orthodontics. However, Bulmer says most employers may include some cover for children but will stop short of extending it to adult members. “We have had a couple of employers asking to extend it to adults but the cost put them off,” he explains.

Another option is a dental expenses trust, which is suitable for a minimum of 250 people, and can be tailored to suit employers’ needs. They also have cost benefits. “Trusts aren’t subject to insurance premium tax so there’s a saving there. These are administered in house, [so] there are further cost-efficiencies”, says Lawson.

If you read nothing else read this…

  • Dental benefits can be delivered to employees and their dependants through dental insurance, healthcare cash plans and dental plans.
  • Cover can be tailored for groups with more than 50 members, while employers looking to cover at least 250 people may want to consider a dental expenses trust as this can save money as well as provide tailored benefits.
  • Cover is largely focused on routine and restorative work as well as injury and emergencies, although some plans include cover for mouth cancer.