I had to pay a visit to my dentist recently - not a trip I enjoy - after a bit of my tooth broke off (and yes, it was my own fault for chewing a toffee).
I got fixed up along with a scale and polish with minimum fuss for around €100 which I didn't mind paying, but there was a time that much of that would have been free, so this week we look at what's 'free' and other ways to claim expenses when it comes to your teeth.
Relief is available from Revenue at the standard rate (20pc) against 'non-routine' services such as crowns, veneers, root canal, braces, extraction of wisdom teeth and other procedures.
A full list is on their website (revenue.ie) and the form you're required to complete is the Med2.
The relief is not allowed against ordinary fillings or scaling though.
Interestingly, it does include any work you get done abroad, as long as it's from a qualified practitioner, as this has become increasingly popular for cash-strapped people who need expensive orthodontics.
Claims can be backdated up to four years, and the form is straightforward. Keep all receipts although you don't have to send them in. There is no excess to pay first.
Only top-end health insurance policies will cover dental work. Some have a dental option plan which you can buy for an additional premium but it may just include cash back of, say, €25 per visit or 70pc on treatments.
Remember, all policies carry an excess and there may be an annual limit you can claim. A slightly different offering comes from HSF (hsf.ie) which has 100pc dental cover on many of its plans. Their 'Scheme FDA' (€56.50 per family, per month) includes dental and optical visits up to a maximum €500 per year and the policy covers the policyholder, their spouse/partner and children up to the age of 21yrs.
Many of the larger dental practices offer structured payment plans for ongoing treatments, so ask. They may let you pay by the month which can ease the burden a little.
There's no denying that Ireland is an expensive place for dental treatment and many take their kids to the North to get identical braces for a lower price - I've done this and it was a no-brainer.
With the euro/sterling exchange rate currently very poor though, do cost it and take the driving cost into account. I'm a little less certain about going to Eastern Europe for treatment as, although cheaper, it can be difficult to follow up or get something fixed if it goes wrong.
The Irish Dental Association claims that up to 6,000 patients a year visit their dentist for remedial treatment after badly carried out work abroad.
There's precious little in the way of consumer law to help them out if things don't pan out, so be careful and don't be guided by price alone when you make your decision.
There's also a suggestion that some of these dentists can tend to over-treat - in other words, signing you up for lots of work, all of which may not be necessary.
Asking previous patients about their experience is best - any reputable clinic will be happy to put you in touch with satisfied customers - or Google discussion forums and the names of clinics to see if there were problems encountered
I found that the cost of root canal work varies from €425-995 in Dublin; £220-300 (€264 - 360) in Newry and just over €100 in Hungary. For implants, they cost from €500 to well north of €2,000 here; up to £1,950 (€2,340 in Newry) and between €445-960 in Budapest, from a selection of clinics.
Anyone who has a complaint can contact the Dental Complaints Resolution Board on (094) 902 5105 or go to dentalcomplaints.ie. My advice is that the first port of call should be your own dentist.
Finally, take some advice from me - don't eat toffee!
A typical Irish child consumes over 16kg of treat foods per year - the equivalent of 140 small chocolate bars, 105 tubes of sweets, 36 packets of jam-filled biscuits and 118 bags of crisps. And then there is ice cream, cakes, pastries, buns and puddings.