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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Acupuncture to rolfing: What your Swiss health insurance gets you (if you pay more)

If you pay for supplementary health insurance in Switzerland you can benefit from access to complementary therapies. We look at what's available and how the system works.

Acupuncture to rolfing: What your Swiss health insurance gets you (if you pay more)

Like numerous countries in Europe, health insurance in Switzerland is a compulsory coverage that all people must have.

Most Swiss insurance providers offer several options for their customers, which are separated into two categories: basic and supplementary.

Basic health insurance (KVG / LaMal) must be purchased, because it is compulsory. Supplementary insurance comes with extra benefits for healthcare but also of course an extra fee.

The franchise (or deductible) will need to be met, but thereafter, even basic insurance has you covered. It pays for medical care, prescriptions, and specialist care like eye doctors, sometimes even without  referrals from your primary care physician. Supplementary health coverage, however, gives you access to complementary therapies that can differ substantially from what basic coverage allows. 

CLICK HERE for more on health insurance in Switzerland

You have to fill out a form the insurance carrier provides and sometimes might have to undergo a health check and discuss preexisting conditions in order to see how much insurance coverage can be offered — if any at all. 

Unlike the KVG / LaMal, which must be provided to all residents regardless of their health status, insurers can deny supplementary coverage if they deem you too much of a risk.

This can happen if you have chronic illnesses or pre-existing health problems, in which case you could be either turned down or offered a policy with wavers for your specific conditions.

Each insurance company decides what coverage they will offer and what percentage they pay, depending on both your overall health at the time of enrolment, and which plan you choose. You’ll be able to read what’s included in your plan in the paperwork you receive from your health insurance and, as always, the fine print is important to read. 

People who only have basic KVG / LaMal insurance still have thorough coverage for many things, from standard doctor visits to in-patient care and hospital stays.

READ ALSO: What is not covered by compulsory basic health insurance in Switzerland?

What complementary treatments are available?

In Switzerland, homeopathy is included in all health insurance plans, as healthcare isn’t merely approached with classical treatments; instead, a holistic approach is applied to healthcare throughout the country. The complementary therapies available through the supplementary insurance give individuals the opportunity to play an important part in their own wellness. 

Having a supplementary insurance not only increases the financial coverage you’ll have for some of your standard medical needs, but it also brings expanded access to numerous forms of wellness therapies. The Swiss are very focused on health and wellness and it is clear through the various types of insurance available, that a primary focus is getting the population healthy and keeping it that way. This additional insurance creates a way for people to access treatments and care for their well-being which, in turn, creates a healthier population. 

Complementary therapies can include various styles of massage including, classic, manual lymph drainage, therapeutic, connective tissue, acupressure, and medical massage, among others.

There are additional treatments and therapies such as foot reflexology, osteopathy, and Rolfing (massage/treatment of connective tissues) that are included in the coverage, plus there is also access to traditional Chinese medicine including cupping (suction cups applied to your body), acupuncture, and herbal medicine. Some practitioners also offer consultations in naturopathic health, including detoxification (guided cleansing of your digestion and body), nutrition, and hydrotherapy (using the element of water as therapy).

READ ALSO: How people in Switzerland can save money on healthcare

Your insurance provider will be able to better detail what is covered for you.

Another thing to take into consideration is that some insurance plans will even reimburse a portion of the costs of other health-related things, such as a part of the annual cost of a gym membership. Some plans will refund about 800 Francs per year for a gym membership that costs about 1,400 Francs. Granted, you will pay more each month for some of these extra options, but having access to them– and utilising them– can make the pricier monthly cost worth it. 

How do you go about getting complementary therapy?

Once you’ve signed up for supplementary insurance, you’re able to view a list of complementary therapies on the website of your insurance provider. Getting connected with a masseuse, osteopath, or other care provider is as simple as calling them up and scheduling an appointment. Once you have the supplementary insurance, there is no need to go to your primary physician and get a referral. 

In Switzerland, the reimbursement process for these therapies is also a little different. While some practitioners will still have you pay direct and out of pocket for the treatment (with a reimbursement coming later, after you’ve submitted the receipt to your insurance company), others will send you a bill in the mail. This creates a unique way that you can receive the receipt from the treatment, file it with the insurance, and often times have the reimbursement from the insurance deposited directly into your bank account before you even pay for the initial treatment. This makes it so that people who also don’t have a lot of access to cash can still receive quality care.

READ ALSO: Which Swiss cantons see the biggest hikes in health insurance premiums?

Be aware though you can’t just go for as much cupping, acupuncture or “rolfing” as you’d like because most insurers will put a limit on how much treatment you can get in a certain period. Some insurers might not cover the full cost meaning the patient might have to pay 10 to 20 percent of the fee.

This focus on providing access to things that augment an individual’s overall wellness makes Swiss healthcare among some of the best in the world. If you can see beyond the price tag (and let’s admit, it is expensive: sometimes 400-500 Francs or more each month), there are myriad ways to source treatments and therapies that will benefit your overall health and well-being, making for a healthier and ultimately happier person. 

When you first move to Switzerland, you can either select an insurance on your own, or sit down with an insurance consultant who will not only go over what each insurance offers, but can help you find the best coverage for you, your family, and your situation. When you need to make a change with your health insurance, you can get in touch with the consultant and they will procure the papers needed to make the changes. Although there is a cost associated with this sort of service, it can make selecting and signing up for health insurance in Switzerland an easy and smooth process. 

To find out more and compare rates for health insurance in Switzerland, information can be found here: