EXPLAINED: How dental care works in Germany
You may have an idea how most healthcare in Germany works – but what about dental care? Dental work can be complex and it isn’t always easy to understand the costs involved.
But if you're an international resident of Germany, it may be even more difficult – especially if you haven't exactly mastered German dental vocabulary! Together with German digital health insurance provider ottonova – which provides customer support in English among other digital services – we explore your options.
Not fun, but necessary
Let’s be real for a moment: nobody likes going to the dentist. Not only can dental work be painful, but it can also often become quite costly. However, looking after your dental health is incredibly important – your smile is one of your best assets, and poor dental health can be linked to a variety of other illnesses.
Unfortunately for internationals working in Germany, it can be confusing working out just what is and isn't covered by your health insurance when it comes to dental care. Therefore, it's important to understand just how the system works in general.
German dental care is widely considered to be among the best in Europe. As a consequence, just what you might have to pay for a procedure can vary wildly depending on the type and level of coverage you have.
Dental care and private insurance
If you have private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung, or 'PKV') it is usually possible to claim up to 100 percent of the costs of a dental procedure from your provider, depending on your tariff. However, it's very important to check your policy for an Wartezeit (exclusion period). This is a period of time after commencing your coverage during which you are ineligible to claim for any procedures, including most kinds of dental treatments.
While it may be challenging to talk to your provider, due to language barriers or other reasons, it's exceptionally important to know what you can and can't claim for, and whether your coverage is still within its Wartezeit.
Dental care and the public option
In order to keep the country's costs at a reasonable level, the German government has instructed public health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung, or 'GKV') providers to only reimburse a basic level of medical and dental care. This means that only procedures like checkups, fillings and the removal of wisdom teeth are covered. Anything more complex, or cosmetic, will not be reimbursed. The costs could run from €150 for teeth cleaning to €2500-€3000 for an implant.
As a consequence of this basic level of coverage, many Germans choose to take out 'top-up' insurance, specifically for dental care, to ensure they aren't left with a large bill, should they need a procedure.
There are many people for whom topping up their insurance to cover dental procedures makes sense.
If you're someone who regularly has their teeth cleaned, you'll save a significant amount of money by taking out supplementary dental insurance, as this is not covered by most GKV providers.
Those who may need dentures could also benefit from supplementary dental insurance, as supplementary health insurance will only cover 60 percent of the cost for the most basic option. If you're looking at anything more extensive or have a complicated procedure lined up, you'll be paying out of pocket. Supplementary dental insurance, however, means that depending on your tariff, you can be covered for 100 percent of the costs.
Orthodontic treatments can cost up to €15,000, and if you have GKV, you're looking at paying that out of pocket. If you have worn braces in the past, or have been referred to an orthodontist with issues, it makes sense to top up with supplementary dental insurance.
Finally, if you're in your 30s, it may be a good idea to consider supplementary coverage for your teeth while you're still relatively young. As with so many areas of health, there are a range of dental problems that can become more common as you age – and that might lead to you no longer being able to take out top-up insurance.
Where and how can you top up?
Germany has hundreds of providers that offer dental insurance. All will have their own specifications, and it's worth reading their policies carefully, to understand what for, and how you can claim. Many have very precise and rigid definitions of what they cover.
In order to ensure that you understand how you're covered, should you choose to take out supplementary dental care, it's important that you have a provider that gives you information in your own language, if not English. German – especially the kind of legal German used in insurance policies – can be very complicated for those without a grounding in it.
This is why you might like to consider ottonova, if you're opting to top up. Fully digital insurance provider ottonova is one of a handful of insurers that provides everything in plain English, with full online and telephone support.
In addition, ottonova's tariffs are designed specifically to be as transparent as possible for expats. Dental checkups and fillings are always covered 100 percent, as well as a set number of cleanings each year. Furthermore, there is no exclusion or waiting period should you need emergency dental care, and your claims can be made via the app, with a typical reimbursement period of 48 hours (on weekdays).
Explore your options with ottonova, the dental insurance provider designed specifically for international workers and English speakers – and calculate your monthly premium for supplementary dental insurance
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