No Dark Magic

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Dental Care Costs in Sweden

Posted at — Apr 4, 2020

Dental care is free for Swedish residents aged 23 or younger (press release from the government, 2018). After 23 it becomes way less free. Tandpriskollen website, made by TLV, a government organization, is useful to get a feeling for the prices. The data is updated three times a year and is based on reports to Försäkringskassan (Swedish Social Insurance Agency) about actually provided services.

Some examples I got from Tandpriskollen:

Table 1. Prices for dental care, SEK






Basic examination by a dentist





Removal of tartar (hardened dental plaque) by a dental hygienist





Filling for a front or canine tooth





Removing one tooth, simple





Removing one tooth, complicated





Cleaning and filling one root canal





Cleaning and filling one root canal





The ‘Reference’ column is important, because no matter what someone pays for a procedure, Försäkringskassan only covers a certain percentage of the ‘reference’ price — that is the price set by the government. They have a whole page in English which explains dental care subsidies in detail, but the gist of it is like this:

  • things like whitening are not part of the picture, but preventive treatments are

  • on the 1st of July every year you get 300 SEK to use for a dental care visit if your age is 30–64, 600 SEK otherwise, and you can save it for the next year (but not further, so at most you have double this amount to spend)

  • the high-cost protection does not kick in until you have spent more than 3000 SEK on dental care within a year; then, based on the ‘reference’ prices, Försäkringskassan pays 50% of the costs between 3000 and 15000 SEK, and 85% of the costs above 15000 SEK

  • the high-cost protection works through the dentist deducting the appropriate sum from the bill

  • the reference price used might be not exactly for the procedure you had:

For some treatments, you can only receive compensation equivalent to getting a filling, even if you choose to have a crown fitted to fix the tooth. Similarly, for some treatments you can only receive compensation for a bridge, even if you choose to get an implant instead of a bridge. The dentist must let you know what applies in each individual case.

And speaking of having to let the patient know something, there’s a very useful law to know in case you go to the dentist and get charged hundreds of SEK for making small talk or listening to the hygienist because they deemed it a consultation:

Tandvårdslagen (1985:125) paragraf 4: Innan en undersökning eller viss behandling påbörjas ska vårdgivaren upplysa patienten om kostnaden för åtgärden.

— which means that the patient must be informed about the cost before any kind of service happens.

Other kinds of medical treatment are covered by the government way more, and it’s not hard to notice. In 2018, a motion was submitted by Hillevi Larsson of the Social Democrats party. It was titled “Tänderna är en del av kroppen” — the teeth are a part of the body — and pointed out that untreated dental sickness brings the same suffering and risks as a sickness in another body part; moreover, there’s a connection between bad dental health and other diseases, including cardio-vascular ones; and other than that, dental health has become a question of social class.

The motion got denied, but resurfaced in an episode of Svenska Nyheter, a satire program on state television. They mentioned that a survey claimed 86% of Swedish population would like dental care to be treated the same as other medical care, and that all the parties currently in the parliament (except for Moderaterna and Centerpartiet) have supported that on their websites. Nothing is happening though, supposedly because this kind of reform would require 20–25 billion SEK.

Therefore Svenska Nyheter made it possible for people to send tons of emails to their representatives in an automated fashion. asked whether teeth are a part of the body. Given a positive answer, it let anyone enter their name and municipality, after which it sent emails to the politicians in that municipality. Pretty quickly the mail server they set up has used up the number of emails it could send, but the service downgraded gracefully. It now showed the text to copy-paste (a simple introduction and some links to the parties' claims of support for the issue) and the list of emails addresses to use manually. SVT, the state television company, got quite some criticism for driving this campaign — some people saw this as departure from being impartial.

The situation hasn’t changed though, so the options Swedes have for handling their dental care costs are (1) using help of Försäkringskassan, (2) signing a tandavtal (kind of like an insurance), and (3) medical tourism.

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