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.

EXPLAINED: How dental care works in Germany
Photo: Getty Images

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. 

You’ve only got one set of teeth, so make sure you look after them. Discover ottonova’s dental insurance coverage – with support in English – today

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. 

Photo: Gettu Images

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. 

Know exactly what you’re covered for when it comes to your teeth, with ottonova’s full service digital dental insurance

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.

Photo: ottonova

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

Member comments

  1. German dental is horrible. They get BASIC care. If they pay more they get better care or have private insurance. I have private, but it took years to find a good dentist. I’ve seen close to 18+ dentists. Dental hygienist profession is not recognized in Germany. I found an American dentist in Heidelberg who does it all. His technicians are trained and they actually clean teeth properly. So many German dentists don’t like cleaning because there’s no money in it. It will take a while to find a good dentist. Good luck

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Why more than 20 million people in Germany face higher health insurance costs

Several German health insurance companies have raised their rates this year, pushing up the costs for customers.

Many people are facing higher health insurance contributions this year.
Many people are facing higher health insurance contributions this year. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jan Woitas

According to a study by the comparison portal Check24, around 21 million people with statutory health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or GKV) have had to pay higher contributions since the beginning of the year after several organisations raised their additional contributions. 

A total of 19 of the 97 statutory health insurance providers in Germany have increased their additional contributions, the comparison portal found.

It means more than a quarter of the 73 million people with statutory health insurance in Germany have to pay higher additional contributions. 

According to Check24, the higher additional contributions can cost an insured person in the most expensive case an extra €261 per year.

Among those to have raised their additional contributions include AOK Baden-Württemberg and AOK Bayern, which have both increased the additional contributions from 1.10 percent to 1.30 percent. Check24 has published the full list of additional contributions here.

Customers affected receive a letter in the post letting them know when their contributions are increasing. Health insurance providers justify raising their rates by pointing out rising costs in the health and care system. The pandemic has also put significant strain on providers. 

READ ALSO: How to make the most of reward schemes on your German health insurance

A total of 67 health insurance providers are keeping their individual additional contribution the same. And as many as 11 health insurance funds lowered their contributions – although most of these already had comparatively high rates.

In 2021, Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), the largest statutory health insurance fund in Germany with around 8.2 million members, raised its additional contribution significantly.

The contribution went up to 1.2 percent from 0.7 percent. Average earners saw additional monthly costs of about €10 extra, while self-employed people had to pay up to €288 more per year. 

TK has not raised its rates this year. 

Can you switch health insurance?

If your health insurance company increases the additional contribution, those insured have a special right of termination until January 31st, 2022.

They can apply for the change up until this date, and they will then become a member of the new health insurance provider from April 1st after the statutory two month change-over period has expired.

Insured people also have the right to change their statutory health insurance fund every 12 months.

The cost of public health insurance in Germany is a fixed salary percentage of 14.6 percent, while the reduced contribution rate for employees without entitlement to sick pay is 14.0 per cent.

Beyond that, however, health insurance providers set an additional contribution.

The contribution assessment ceiling for statutory health insurance (GKV) – up to which contributions are levied – remains unchanged at €58,050 per year in 2022, as in the previous year.

Check24 said that switching providers can save employees up to €624 per year depending on their income.

Self-employed people pay both the employee and employer contribution and can therefore save up to €1,248 euros per year by switching, the analysis found. 

However in a representative YouGov survey only 11 percent of respondents in Germany said they had recently changed their insurance provider or would do so in the foreseeable future.

Most of the benefits provided by statutory health insurance organisations are identical.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The three new services covered by German health insurance

However, there are some differences in the voluntary benefits, including dental health (professional dental cleaning and discounted dentures), vaccinations (flu vaccinations for under 60s and travel vaccinations), various cancer screening examinations and osteopathic treatments.

“In addition to the financial relief, insured people can also secure higher subsidies for professional dental cleaning or other additional benefits by switching,” said Dr Daniel Güssow, Managing Director of statutory health insurers at Check24.


Additional contributions (die) Zusatzbeiträge

Right of termination – (das) Kündigungsrecht 

Benefits (die) Leistungen

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