Compare The Best Private Health Insurance For Orthodontic Cover
If you've ever looked into the cost of getting braces or your teeth straightened, the shock of the cost can be more painful than the procedure!
Yes, orthodontic treatment can be incredibly worthwhile for many people, especially for children, but it’s hardly cheap. Fortunately, there are health funds that have extras cover for orthodontic treatments like braces, aligners, plates and more, which can cut your out-of-pocket costs. So, whether you're looking for insurance that covers orthodontic treatment for your kids or you need some work done yourself, there are a lot of options out there. Here’s a rundown of how health insurance for orthodontics works and what you’ll need to think about when choosing the right policy.
Orthodontic treatment typically isn’t covered by basic extras cover.
If you want cover for the cost of your kids’ orthodontic treatments, you’ll need a higher level of extras cover than the basic.
Some insurers offer minor orthodontics cover of just a few hundred dollars, while others will pay over $2,500.
What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a special type of dentistry that focuses on diagnosing, preventing and correcting misaligned teeth and jaws.
If you ever had braces fitted when you were younger, then you'll have had orthodontic treatment.
Why do we need orthodontics? Essentially the right treatment gives you straighter teeth but also will help prevent plaque build-up in areas where teeth were once crowded.
This can mean better oral health and less dental bills in the long run.
If you need orthodontic treatment, a general dentist will usually refer you to a specialist orthodontist.
An orthodontist goes through additional dental training similar to how a doctor studies to become a surgeon or a specialist.
Orthodontists deal with:
Diagnosing and treating misaligned teeth such as overbites, underbites, cross-bites, reverse bites and tooth crowding/crooked teeth
Treating misaligned jaw and tooth irregularities
Impacted teeth (teeth that haven't erupted from underneath the gum)
Gaps and spaces between the teeth
What types of orthodontic treatments are available and how much do they cost?
The good news is there's a wide range of treatments orthodontists use to help treat issues with misaligned teeth or jaws.
The bad news is they're not cheap and can cost you thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.
What is it?
Clear or metal brackets attached to the front of your teeth
$6,000 – $9,000
Braces attached to the back of your teeth
$9,500 – $15,000
Clear or tooth-coloured braces attached to the front of your teeth with similarly coloured wires
$6,500 – $9,500
Clear aligners / Invisalign
Typically custom-fitted aligners that work over your teeth for around 22 hours a day
$6,500 – $9,500
Usually worn by younger children to support jaw alignment
Varies depending on treatment
Devices to fit over top and bottom teeth to shift their position
Varies depending on treatment
Upper jaw device that fixes teeth crowding
Varies depending on treatment
Source: Orthodontics Australia
Some of the most common treatments include*:
Traditional braces: Typically an orthodontist tightens braces every 4-6 weeks and the pressure shifts teeth into the correct position.
Lingual braces: Lingual braces function the same way as traditional braces except they're usually made of gold, which makes them more expensive.
Invisalign: You're usually required to wear Invisalign aligners for around 22 hours a day, and they can be removed to eat, drink and brush your teeth.
Plates: Plates are usually recommended for younger children whose jaws are still growing.
Palate expanders: Palate expanders are used to widen the upper jaw and fix crowding.
How much do braces cost in Australia?
Some orthodontic providers offer limited cosmetic treatments, which focus on enhancing the appearance of your front teeth without doing any work around potential bite issues. These treatments can take around six months in total and might cost between $3,500 and $6,000.
While this approach can give your smile a quick makeover, it doesn’t tackle underlying jaw and bite irregularities. Neglecting these issues could lead to discomfort, complications or even a relapse of the existing problems.
It's important that you speak to a specialist orthodontist before choosing any particular treatment, including clear aligners, so you know whether your preferred option is the right fit, or if the treatment is safe for your long-term oral health.
It’s worth noting that the cost can change quite substantially if additional things like expansion plates, anchorage implants or bite-correcting springs are needed in combination with your braces.COMPARE & SAVE
Does health insurance cover orthodontics and braces?
It does, but be aware that orthodontic treatment generally isn't covered under health insurance hospital cover policies.
If you're looking for cover for the cost of orthodontic treatment for yourself or your children, you'll usually need to include orthodontics in your extras cover.
In addition to orthodontics, extras cover can include treatments like general dental work, optical, physiotherapy and more.
Exactly what's covered and how much you get back depends on the policy and the insurer.
What type of health insurance do you need for orthodontics?
Usually, health insurance extras cover for dental treatment is split into three categories.
General dental: Includes cleaning, plaque removal, X-rays and minor fillings.
Major dental: Includes wisdom teeth extraction, crowns, bridges and dentures.
It's worth noting that some funds will have combined major dental and orthodontics limits on what you can claim, while others will have separate limits:
In addition, some insurers offer orthodontics separately to major dental, while others will package the two together.
It's worth checking your policy to see how it's structured as you may be paying for orthodontics when you no longer need it, for example if your children have grown up and left your policy.
Keep in mind that not all orthodontics cover is the same. Some policies cover orthodontics treatment up to just a few hundred dollars, while others pay over $2,500.
Comparing extras policies can help you find the right level of cover for your situation.
What is an annual benefit limit for orthodontics?
An annual benefit limit is the maximum amount you can claim, per person, for orthodontic treatment in any one year of cover.
Some health insurers set a standard annual benefit limit for the entire policy period, while others accrue an annual benefit limit the longer you are covered by a policy.
Here's an example of what an accrued annual benefit limit could look like, based on a policy with a starting limit of $400, which increases by $200 every year:
1st year: $400
2nd year: $600
3rd year: $800
4th year: $1,000
Annual benefit limits that accrue over time are known as 'loyalty limits'.
What is a lifetime limit for orthodontics?
The lifetime limit is the maximum amount you can claim, per person, for orthodontic treatment over your lifetime.
For example, a lifetime limit of $2,400 means you can claim up to $2,400.
Lifetime limits usually range from around $1,000 to $2,800, which means there will usually be an out-of-pocket gap payment for orthodontic treatments.
What is the best health insurance for braces?
There’s no one-size-fits-all provider for every person who needs braces. Instead, you’ll need to compare health insurance policies and find the right coverage for your needs. Always read the policy documents to ensure you know what is – and isn’t – covered by your chosen policy.
Some of the most popular insurers in Australia – such as BUPA, nib, Medibank, HCF and ahm – do cover orthodontics for their customers, whether partial or fully. Here’s some of the most important info you need to know:
Extras policies that include orthodontics cover
Your Choice Extras 60
Annual benefit limit starts at $450 in the second year of holding cover. Lifetime limit is $1,300 per person.
Top Extras 60
Annual benefit limit is $700.
Lifetime limit is $2,000 per person.
Top Extras 75
Annual benefit limit is $800.
Lifetime limit is $2,600 per person.
Top Extras 90
Annual benefit limit is $900.
Lifetime limit is $2,800 per person.
Annual benefit limit starting at $800 and increasing by $100 a year for a specified period.
Lifetime limit of $2,600.
Annual benefit limit starting at $350 and increasing by $100 a year for a specified period.
Lifetime limit of $1,500.
Growing Family Extras
Annual benefit limit is $100.
Lifetime limit is $1,200.
Annual benefit limit is $400.
Lifetime limit is $1,200.
Annual benefit limit is $800 ($400 for orthodontic treatment carried out by a general dentist).
Lifetime limit is $2,400 ($1,200 for orthodontic treatment carried out by a general dentist).
Annual benefit limit accrues at $440 per year up to a $2,640 lifetime limit for orthodontist treatment or $1,000 for general dentist treatment.
Annual benefit limit is $900, increasing each year to a lifetime limit of $2,900 per person.
Annual benefit limit is $700 per person.
Lifetime limit is $2,200 per person.
Annual benefit limit is $600 per person.
Lifetime limit is $1,800 per person.
Is there a waiting period for orthodontic treatment?
The standard waiting period for orthodontic treatment is 12 months.
This means you'll need to wait at least 12 months after taking out a health insurance policy with orthodontics cover before you can claim on treatment.COMPARE & SAVE
How do you claim on orthodontic treatment?
To make a claim, you'll need to ask your orthodontist for a 'treatment plan'.
This plan should outline how long the treatment could take and how you will be paying for the cost of the treatment.
Once you have the treatment plan, you'll need to give it to your health fund to start claiming benefits.
There are two ways to pay and claim on treatment:
1. In instalments: Your orthodontist or dentist can process your claim on the spot by swiping your health insurance card using HICAPS (Health Industry Claims and Payments Service).
With this method, you only need to pay the out-of-pocket gap amount, if there is one.
2. Upfront: If you pay the full amount upfront, you'll need to give your fund a tax invoice so you can claim back the benefit amount.
What happens if I change health insurance while receiving orthodontic treatment?
If you decide to switch policies while you're in the middle of treatment, some funds may require you to serve the new waiting period (usually 12 months) before you can claim.
Not all funds do this -- some will let you continue to claim without serving waiting periods.
Where waiting periods will kick in regardless is if you upgrade your existing policy.
For example, if you raise your annual limit from $400 to $500 or you've upgraded from a $2,000 lifetime limit to $2,800 then you'll need to serve your new waiting periods for the higher limits.
If you decide to switch policies while you're in the middle of treatment, you'll need to serve the new waiting period (usually 12 months) before you can make a claim.
In most cases, if you've accrued a loyalty limit on your yearly benefit amount, it also won't be carried over to your new policy.
This doesn't mean switching is never a good idea: cover options change regularly, and finding a new policy could be more cost-effective in the long run.
If you or somebody on your fund is in the middle of treatment, our expert team will try to find a policy that allows you to continue to claim.
When should I stop paying for orthodontics?
If you've purchased orthodontics cover for your kids, remember to check your policy and see if they're still covered.
In most cases, insurers will stop providing cover for children after they turn 21 but it's not uncommon for people to still be paying for extras they won't need.
If you don't need cover for orthodontics anymore, consider if it's worth switching to another insurer.
There are lots of options out there that could be cheaper and more suitable for your needs.
So, if you're looking for new orthodontics cover or to review your current policy?
Compare policies to talk to one of our specialists about finding cover that's right for your situation and budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are waiting periods applied to orthodontics?
Waiting periods are designed to help manage costs and discourage patients from immediately using insurance once they buy a policy. This helps health insurance providers balance out the risks and ensures their members make at least a minimal contribution before claiming benefits.
How can you get cheaper braces?
If you’re looking for cheaper braces, make sure you explore the potential of your state or territory’s public dental health services (and your eligibility for them) or consider getting private insurance specifically for orthodontics.
Are retainers covered by private health cover?
This depends on your policy and provider. While some insurers will cover retainers, be aware that they aren’t always fully covered by every private health provider.
Can you get private health cover for orthodontics with no waiting periods?
In most cases when you sign up for a new policy with a health insurer, you will have to sit out predefined waiting periods. This includes cover for orthodontics. In most cases, you will have a waiting period of 12 months, however this may differ by provider. Make sure you read your policy document to understand what’s covered and any relevant waiting periods.
This guide is opinion only and should not be taken as medical or financial advice. Check with a financial professional before making any decisions.